Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Poetry, a mouse and Emily Dickinson

The Mouse of Amherst is a charming little book. I just reread it to my children last week. I first read it to my oldest several years ago, when we started homeschooling. This small book, by Elizabeth Spires, with lovely illustrations by Claire Nivola, is sweetly whimsical.

But it's more than that. The life and adventures of a mouse named Emmaline, who lives in Emily Dickinson's room, help us to consider what poetry is, what makes a poet (or poetess, or poet-mouse), and what purpose poetry serves.

Several years ago, when we first read this book, my middle child, then four years old, took quite a liking to Emily Dickinson. She asked to listen to "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" repeatedly. Then, she walked around the house reciting it, in her irresistable way:

Because I could not stop for deff
He kindwee stopped for me
The cawwiage held but just aw-selves
and immortowity.

Memories of "deff" recitations, Emmaline the Mouse's poetry, my oldest's delight at discovering that Emily Dickinson recognized the power of a great book ("There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away....") -- these things are mingled in my memory with autumn and the joys of our first year of homeschooling. And this year, we can start all over again with three-year-old Ramona. She realized last week that she, too, likes Emily Dickinson and Emmaline the Mouse. The power of words.

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