My pixie is a reader! Well, technically she’s a writer; She only reads what she herself writes. She has no interest in reading published material. I’m still supposed to hold the book and read aloud while she relaxes, sucking her two middle fingers thoughtfully and picturing the story in her own way. Who needs illustrations? But she writes. She carries a little notebook pilfered from my desk and whenever inspiration comes she writes a word or two. The other day she announced “I’m going to write HOT” and she did. She knows all the letters and she sounds out whatever she’s decided to write. Her funny accent makes for some odd combinations, but when she says the word it makes sense phonetically. Four is spelled F-U-R, store is spelled S-T-U-R, and floor sounds distinctly French, as in F-L-E-U-R.

It was important to her to learn to write her siblings names as soon as she learned her own. She listed them in large, perfect print on an oversized sheet of paper. A bold border gave the list a poster effect and she taped it to the wall. “There” she announced. “Now you can stop calling us the wrong names.” It’s an easy mistake. Their names all start with the same letter. Try saying “She sells seashells down by the seashore” a few times. Try it when, instead of selling seashells, she’s stolen your lipstick and painted her sister’s face with it or systematically broken a dozen eggs to see what’s inside. 

My son reads voraciously. He reads before school, on the bus, at lunch, after school in the tree house, while swinging on a rope, at the dinner table if I let him, before bed, in bed… A week ago he came home from the book store beaming with three new books in his hands. Now he needs more. I came home with new books as well, but I’m still savoring Kirk Curnutt’s short stories in Baby Let’s Make a Baby and I’ve started War Music, which is Christopher Logue’s very fine account of Homer’s Iliad. It’s a book I’d like the luxury of reading straight through, all at once. It’s poetry, after all. The pixie picked it up yesterday and flipped through. “Your books are all filled up with words! Cool. S-E-E. See. Is this a story about the beach?” I was reminded of a quote by Victor Hugo: To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

Very cool indeed.


One Less Scoundrel


Jean de la Bruyere visited me Sunday afternoon when I had fallen asleep with a poetry book on my face. He asked what business I had messing with poetry. I asked what business a 17th century Frenchman had lecturing me in my dreams. He adjusted his periwig, put his hands on his hips and quoted himself in a ridiculous fake French accent. “There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence. What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed, or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!” Well. How could I answer that? The man had a point.

Then I woke. When I took the book off my face, Ted Kooser, Poet, said to me: “Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what could be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world.” I like Ted. I think I’ll keep right on writing bad poetry. It keeps me amused and sometimes out of trouble even. Sometimes.