I mean a book, poem, or short story that touched you deeply…changed you in some way.
Mine was “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding---
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door
That first stanza had me riveted. I pored over words I couldn’t read and images I couldn’t understand. My mom read the romantic poem to me when I was five. We were in a tough spot in life, didn’t have many books. In fact, I wasn’t even excited about reading, but my middling interest in books changed, turning into a hot need to know.
Fortunately, my mom had saved a collection of her childhood books and made those bedtime reading. A poetry compendium mixed everything from “Little Jack Horner” to “Humpty Dumpty.” They were fun, but after a tragic tale of sacrificial love, I was done with Jack and the egg.
Thank you, but I’ll take torrid romance with a galleon moon any day of the week.
Before you’re too shocked at my five year old reading content, my mom soon filled me with Disney’s Golden Book collection. Like most little girls, I fell in love with the princess stories. Yes, the romance dye was cast. My passion for historical romance traces back to those “Highwayman” nights, having sprouted a deep connection with books, history, and life.
For all the one-on-one introversion of reading, books really give us profound social bonds.
I saw this when I taught 5th and 6th grade. As a teacher, a poetry unit soon came my way, and believe me, I approached the topic with fear and trembling! Would the students roll their eyes? Or find something so lofty as poetry, dare I hope...fascinating?
On the hunt to make poetry interesting, I ran across Loreena McKennit’s rendition of “The Highwayman” set to music. I snatched the CD for a lesson on onomatopoeia. As the lesson began, some were interested, some were not. A fair number of eyes glazed over, but they listened respectfully.
Then, I played “The Highwayman” and just like me as a five year old, the whole class (tough boys included) fell in love. You could hear a pin drop when the last note faded. They asked me play the poem over and over again for many days after that lesson. Discussions on poetry blossomed to the tune of “Hey this poetry thing’s pretty good.”