Last Friday, I kicked off my participation in Poetry Friday with an Elizabethan sonnet I wrote for my wife as part of my wedding vows. She has been so helpful and supportive to me in my quest for publication in the world of children’s literature, I felt it was the perfect poem to get things rolling. Today (our anniversary, ironically), I’m spotlighting a poem I wrote for two other people to whom I owe the deepest gratitude for not only supporting me, but constantly inspiring me: my two daughters. Interestingly, it was actually written long before I even knew I wanted to be published in the world of children’s literature.
Now, it may be comprised of only two stanzas, but this poem was a long time coming. I originally wrote it in the spring of 1999 while watching the girls (ages 7 and 4 at the time) playing at Taylor Park in St. Albans, Vermont. Taylor Park is the quintessential New England town square, full of lush green grass, tall maple trees, and a big water fountain. It so happened that, on this day, as I watched my daughters running around being kids, the first stanza just came to me.
I had already had a few adult poems published independently at this point, so writing poetry was nothing foreign to me; writing children’s poetry, though, was unfamiliar. Not knowing what to do with these two little couplets, I wrote them down when I got home and read it to the girls and their mom. They liked it, but I felt like I was giving Lauren, my eldest, the spotlight and leaving poor Katie out of it. I wasn’t sure how to include her, but I kept thinking about it, figuring something would eventually hit me.
A little over a year later, we were at the park again and I was mulling lines and phrases over in my head…when it dawned on me that even though Katie was playing with her older sister nicely, she was playing differently and seemed to have a different frame of mind. That was all it took to figure out the angle I needed and bang out the second stanza.
But because no poem is ever good enough, I went back to it a couple years ago and tweaked a couple words here and there. That’s what writers are supposed to do, right? Revise, revise, revise??
Well, I think it’s pretty well set now. I hope you like it! And if you ever find yourself in northwestern Vermont, take a drive through downtown St. Albans…and maybe you’ll find inspiration, too!
Downtown at Taylor Park
Lovely Lauren, little daughter,
Fishing in the fountain water,
Looking for a leafy fin –
Leaned too far and tumbled in.
Katie-Bea was fishing, too,
Doing what her sister do;
Closed her eyes and made a wish –
Don’t know how, but caught a fish!
– Matt Forrest Esenwine