Poetry for my (pre-)adolescent daughter
April 25, 2014 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I am starting a habit of reading a poem or 2 to my 11-year-old every night at bedtime. It's been pretty random choices, and I'd like to read some fun, inspirational, empowering stuff for her.

My daughter is on the brink of - even tipping over already - into the wilderness of adolescence. She wants to be her own person and is much more confident and self-aware than I was at that age. But she also struggles with wanting to be like all of her friends, who in her eyes seem to have it better (more vacations, more things, better make-up, etc) than her.

She is very expressive, very open and emotional, and a loving person, and I want to encourage her down a healthy path of trusting herself, seeing the beauty in the world as it is, and just being happy. She is a ballet dancer, thinks reading is pretty cool, but doesn't prefer it, and still (a lot more rarely now) walks around the yard out back telling herself stories and acting out dramas in her head. Instagram and TV are creeping in as diversions for her more and more.

I have a book of Mary Oliver poems I plan to crack into at some point. Maybe some Shel Silverstein, even though it might be a little young for her (I'm guessing that's what her take might initially be). What other suggestions do you have for poems that you think would inspire and/or tickle strong young women? What poems are just beautiful and appropriate for this stage of life (ie, no overt sexual stuff, no violence)?
posted by lucyleaf to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Poetry Foundation mobile app might be a fun thing to try. It's built around serendipitous discovery, but you can also search by theme & poet.
posted by activitystory at 12:27 PM on April 25, 2014

You could read the lyrics of some of your favorite songs.
posted by vignettist at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2014

I don't know much about poetry, but Any Human to Another by Countee Cullen has stuck with me since I read in in high school.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2014

If by Rudyard Kipling is my suggestion. The last line says "you'll be a man, my son", though. Maybe you could both come up with alternatives that apply to girls or are gender neutral but still fit the rhyme and meter.
posted by soelo at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh god, also, Dorothy Parker! I'd love to have read her as a young teenager.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:37 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love Maya Angelou. The rhythm and the words are so powerful.

Ditto Langston Hughes.

ee cummings

Ogden Nash was a hoot when I was a kid.

nthing Dorothy Parker.

The works of Robert Browning are VERY accessible, and fun to read aloud, as is Tennyson. (Hell, HE loved to read Maud to anyone who would listen.)

Kids love Edgar Allen Poe as well. Very goth.

That's a pretty good start, I'd say.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:40 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

seeing the beauty in the world as it is

Whitman. I didn't get into him until early adolescence, but I think I would have if I'd known about it.
posted by Beardman at 12:45 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like some of the others, I'm just a poetry dilettante, but Mary Oliver's works have inspired...life in me as I've grown up.

When Death Comes might sound bleak, but its message is optimistic and inspiring. Here are some other poems too.
posted by trampoliningisfun at 12:46 PM on April 25, 2014

Response by poster: These are ALL best answers. Thank you. Here's a secret: reading these aloud and sharing them with my sweet girl are going to be as inspiring and empowering for me as it will be (I hope) for her.
posted by lucyleaf at 12:55 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Emily Dickenson! I forgot about her, but she's great too!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:08 PM on April 25, 2014

My mother read The Seal's Lullaby to my sister and me when we were children. We had her pastor read it at her funeral, it meant that much to us.

I LOVE Billy Collins. He is a great example of how poetry can be about anything and everything, and he is extremely funny.

The poetry of David Whyte was my real door to listening to poetry aloud. The way he reads his poetry is unique and wonderful.
posted by janey47 at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2014

Corson's Inlet by A. R. Ammons (a biologist/poet). If you need just a short section, I suggest starting with "terror pervades but is not arranged".

I also suggest having her read that section of the poem to you, if she'd be into it.

Also, if you think some of the vocabulary is too obscure for her (it may not be), maybe look at those words a day or two before. But, hey, she's 11 and probably more educated than the kids in Douglasville where I grew up.
posted by amtho at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2014

seeing the beauty in the world as it is

Gerard Manley Hopkins! His nature poems are breathtaking. The Windhover is probably his most famous, but other really lovely ones include As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame, Spring, God's Grandeur, and Inversnaid.
posted by scody at 1:11 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

A bit more lightly ironic wonder than un-cut inspiration, but:

Dog by Ferlinghetti,

or anything in his The Coney Island of the Mind.
posted by bertran at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2014

My favourite poem around that age was Kubla Khan, which I had memorized and read in a gorgeous pop out book. I also remember The Tiger. To this day, I like dramatic sounding things.
posted by carolr at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2014

Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman (This is video of him reading the poem. Also available as a book)
posted by belladonna at 2:15 PM on April 25, 2014

A Mighty Girl has linked some poetry in the past.

Around that age, my mom read "The Raven" and "The Bells" to me. Loved them and still do.
posted by wintersweet at 2:58 PM on April 25, 2014

belladonna: "Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman (This is video of him reading the poem. Also available as a book)"

Also Instructions.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:58 PM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wow, this is one rare moment where I would love to be a parent. No regrets otherwise.

I'd say yes for G.M. Hopkins and Ogden Nash mentioned above. I'd say kinda maybe for my faves the great English Romantic poets, but time will catch up eventually.

I could suggest sonnets by William Shakespeare. They have some interesting subtleties.
posted by ovvl at 5:48 PM on April 25, 2014

The Writer's Almanac and any anthologies that Garrison Keillor had a hand in would be good resources. Also, anything Billy Collins--especially after you're heard him read it himself.
posted by TEA at 8:25 PM on April 25, 2014

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