Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Riehlife Poem of the Day: George Venn’s “Poem Against the First Grade”

Poem Against the First Grade
by George Venn
Marking the Magic Circle: Poetry, Fiction, and Essays

Alex, my son, with backberry jam
smeared ear to ear and laughing,
rides his unbroken joy with words
so fast we let him get away
on the jamjar without clean cheeks first.
He spills frasasass
tea with milk and honey;
a red-chafted schlicker
beats our cottonwood drum.
Thumping the pano keys
like a mudpie chef,
he goes wild with words
at the wittle wooden
arms inside, a hundred
Pinoschios to singsong.
If he can’t wide byebye
bike to the candy store,
where he is Master Rich
with one penny, words turn
to tears in his mouf. Once
in a while, he walks home
with pumpumpumpernickel bread,
his nose twitching so fast
a wabbit would love him.
Now this language isn’t taught in first grade.
Alicia, his tister, knows this fact.
Be he juggles it around all day
until she makes him spit it out like
a catseye marble or a tack. “Ax,” she says,
“that’s not right.” She’s been among giants
who wipe off the dialect of backberry jam,
then pour hot wax on each bright mistake.
I hope for a bad seal on Ax and tister,
encourage the mold of joyous error
that proper sad giants, armed to the ears
with pencils and rules, all forgot.

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2 Responses »

  1. Hello Janet--Just a quick note to say that I'm delighted to find my work published on your site. In case you or your audience want to follow up, you might want to read the brief nominating essay by Theresa Gill in _Teaching With Fire_ where the poem was also reprinted.
    Best wishes,


  2. Dear George,

    Your poem was run as part of April's National Poetry Month series (a poem a day). I love your poem. It's so down to earth, and shows that poetry is not all about puffs of clouds on a summer day. Rather, it's the stuff of our everyday lives...if we can only reveal this to others...and ourselves.


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