Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems by Young People

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9780689834608: Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems by Young People

and if you fall --
no worry --
soft hay will catch you.

In this striking companion to Ten-Second Rainshowers one hundred young people, from ages 8 to 18, share their thoughts and feelings about the world they live in. These pages include poems about friends and solitude, work and play, home and school, and the journey toward adulthood. Ranging in tone from funny to wise, from eloquent to irreverent to matter-of-fact, the original voices in this book demonstrate poetry's ability to express the triumphs, and soften the hardships, of everyday life. These poems will inspire young writers for years to come. Fourteen lush interior illustrations by Julie Monks enhance the book's appeal.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Sandford Lyne is a visiting poet-in-the-schools who has introduced poetry writing to more than 40,000 students of all learning levels in grades three through twelve. As a participant in The Kennedy Center's Arts in Education program, he also designs and presents workshops on poetry writing and story writing in the classroom to teachers nationwide.

Sandford Lyne's own poetry has appeared in a number of distinguished anthologies and literary magazines. He holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa.

Sandford Lyne lives in Arnaudville, Louisiana.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

My parents were part of that remarkable generation who went from the horse and buggy to the walk on the moon, embracing more change than any generation in history. They knew a life of farms and small towns, which gave them a love of simple things -- friendships, family gatherings, jokes, stories, needed rains, plentiful crops and summer vegetables, a big porch (I could go on and on), and, of course, the beauties of the natural world (pastures, fields, woods, lakes, rivers, and ponds). It was a love that they passed on to me -- a love not for things, but for experiences. They were not the kind of parents who sit a child down and drive home a pointed lesson, but their personal integrity, generosity, fairness, and kindness, and their deep and consistent pleasure with the shared human experience -- more often than not conveyed only with the warmth of their eyes, their smiles -- added the first quiet brushstrokes of depth to my own learning and understanding.

My mother believed it was important to read to me -- until I could read for myself. She noticed my interests (they were fortunately inexpensive interests, such as drawing) and happily bought me things I needed to pursue them (drawing tablets, pencils, charcoal, and drawing pens and ink). Not an artist herself, she left entirely up to me what I drew and how I used my imagination. I think she saw her role as the guardian and supplier of my means and opportunities.

Not only the guardian of my interests and opportunities, my mother was also a classroom teacher; she taught eighth-grade math and ninth-grade Latin at one of our local schools, and she was my teacher for both (and I learned to finish my homework just at bedtime, so she would not -- in her enthusiasm for those subjects -- give me more to do!). Even in this setting, at school, my mother's most profound instruction almost always came indirectly, often without her knowing. I remember a particular Monday when I was in the eighth grade. Over the weekend a man had been arrested in our town for trying to rob a grocery store. The story was in the Sunday paper, and everyone seemed to know about it. The man's son went to my school, and during the day he had been taunted unmercifully. Students said things to that boy in the halls like "Your daddy's a dirty, no-good robber" and "Your daddy's a jailbird." At the end of the day I went to my mother's classroom to meet her for the ride home. The door, almost always open, was closed. I opened it slowly and quietly. At the front of the room I saw my mother at her desk with her head in her hands. She was crying, not loud, but I could hear her sobs.

"What's wrong?" I asked. Lifting her head and wiping her eyes with a tissue, she told me that she knew the man who robbed the grocery store. He had a wife and three children. She told me that he had very little education, that he was a good person and hardworking. She said she knew he had been out of work for months, unable to find a job, only finding a little yard work here and there. She said she thought he must have been desperate to feed his family, or he wouldn't have done such a thing. She felt sad for the man, and for his family, and for his son who had been the brunt of cruel remarks that day.

I stood there in silence, taking in what my mother was saying. With those heartfelt tears and a few words, she was teaching me a lifetime lesson -- to suspend judgment and to look below the surface of things, to wonder at the whole story of each person in the world before making up one's mind about them. The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Every smile and every tear deserves a history."

My mother's death in 1992 took my sister and me back to Kentucky. It was my first trip back to see my relatives in almost twenty years. Almost all of them are farmers in Logan County, and they told my sister and me how much they loved my mother, and talked about her quiet sense of humor, and about how much they missed her after she retired and moved east to be near her grandchildren. For me it was a time to connect with memories of a childhood visiting these farms and farmers -- feeding chickens with my great-aunt and climbing about in the lofts of barns with my cousins. I remembered a ride one afternoon through fields and woods on the back of a horse with my mother to see the one-room schoolhouse where she first taught when she was only eighteen years old.

It was on this return trip that I also made a special connection with a cousin, Becky McKinney, who is a third-grade teacher in the K-to-8 school in nearby Adairville. We talked about my work as a poet-teacher, traveling across the United States to teach poetry writing to young people and training their teachers in creative writing. Becky said she wished her students could have an experience like that. And so we struck a deal, a "barter." I would come back to teach a one-week poetry-writing workshop in exchange for the rich and simple pleasure of staying with relatives on their farms.

The following September I returned, staying with Becky's parents: kind, generous, salt-of-the-earth farmers. The first morning I drove to school along a two-lane road that rose and fell over gently curving hills, the fields lush with ripened corn and soybeans and ready-to-cut tobacco, a white-silver mist in places low to the ground. There were cattle out in the open and under the trees, huge red and black barns, ponds as blue as cornflowers, and the smoky-sweet scent of curing tobacco in the air. By the time I reached the school I was intoxicated with the sights and smells, and walking into the first classroom, the words tumbled out, "My gosh, you kids live in paradise!"

"Paradise?" The students looked stunned. They thought I couldn't mean it, this poet to whom they might be distantly related, this stranger whose parents lived where they lived but who himself lived in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. It seemed to them that they lived at the ends of the earth, in the boondocks, nowhere.

But I had learned a long time ago to look beneath the surface of things and to believe in the treasures and lessons hidden in each life, to believe in the history of each smile and tear. As a poet myself, I knew that my own world of images and metaphors was grown in the deep topsoil and in the seed experiences of my childhood, sometimes in the very places where these students now walked and lived. I knew that a fact learned by walking a field is not the same fact found only in a book or on the Internet, and that writing, which is inward listening, adds something else to the fact, adds to the fact the deeper mystery of the Self. This mystery and its appearance is not something that can be explained; it must be experienced. Trusting in this mystery, Emerson again wrote, "Every writer is a skater, and must go partly where he would, and partly where the skates take him." With patience, the possibilities before us were rich indeed. Mia Payne, a fourth grader I had worked with, writing about a walk through a wild field to a pond, ended her poem with just such an awakened awareness:

It was slower to my feet,
but faster to my heart.

And so, together, we got on "the slow horse of poetry" to ride out on the roads and landscapes of their personal stories. I became the guardian and supplier of means and opportunities; they did the rest. Over the course of the week they began to write poems about fields of corn, soybeans, and tobacco, about cattle and tractors and creeks and hills and barns, about their mamas and daddies, their aunts and uncles and cousins. They wrote about loneliness and solitude, about loss and recovery, sometimes turning a sorrow into sentences of transcendent beauty. They discovered -- as I knew they would -- that the poems they wrote were the "histories" of their own smiles, their own tears. And on the last day one boy looked up at me, his face illumined by the words of his own poems, and -- speaking for himself and many of his classmates -- the words came tumbling out, "Mr. Lyne, you were right. We do live in paradise."

Compilation copyright © 2004 by Sandford Lyne
Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Julie Monks

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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