A Charlotte Mason Education, Beauty, Poetry, Recitation
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“A thousand thoughts that burn come to us on the wings of verse.”* by Bonnie Buckingham

Did you know a great poet passed away in late August? No more poems from his pen. No more translations of epic Anglo-Saxon poetry. He was the greatest Irish poet since W.B. Yeats.  I mourned the 1995 Nobel Prize winner, Seamus Heaney. His funeral was broadcasted from Donnybrook, south of Dublin. I sat in my living room transported to St. Mary’s Parish to pay my respects along with the world and recognized the famous Bono and Downton Abbey’s  Mrs. Bates, the first one who was killed, well, you know that story. The actress who played her: Mary Doyle Kennedy attended. Irish children memorize his poems, especially Digging.  He will be read for hundreds of years, perhaps five hundred. So, I had to put more of Heaney in our readings for my high school class in September before we started Beowulf, Seamus Heaney’s translation.

The first day of class each student brought a poem by Seamus Heaney. They discovered how he brought the extraordinary to the ordinary. For instance, “Blackberry Picking” reminded some of picking berries themselves:

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

Heaney’s poems were read aloud and we found recordings of Heaney himself reading in his Irish brogue. We copied them, wrote the poems in prose form, and did recitations.  Now we are writing ‘Boasts’ like Beowulf gave in that epic poem.  Here is a dramatic recitation of “St Kevin and the Blackbird” by Lydia and Abigail Silver, (ages 14, 15) : http://vimeo.com/78321125

My younger class is reading William Blake. He was “before his time” in his imaginary visions and illustrations.  Charlotte said “Let Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ represent their standard in poetry” (vol 2, pg. 263).  The students, age 7-11, are making a Blake notebook. We are reading William Blake by Daughterty and narrating orally, acting out scenes, and writing narrations. We complete copy work and have copies of Blake’s illustrated poems. It is important to see how Blake illustrated each poem.  We are learning “Jerusalem,” Blake’s poem, which is England’s national hymn. We watched Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, which took place in Westminster Abbey to hear the hymn.  This is also where Blake did pencil sketches of monuments and tombs two hundred years earlier. In Westminster Abbey, there is a monument (a bust) to commemorate Blake in the Poet’s Corner. A good book for teachers is Hymns Unbidden: Donne, Herbert,  Blake, Emily Dickinson, and the Hymnographers by Martha Winburn England (1966). We will practice calligraphy and do a picture study of one of his paintings. Here is Noelle Stout (age 8) reciting “The Piper” from Songs of Innocence:  http://vimeo.com/76667024.

     I am always looking for poets. My heart beats a bit faster when news comes of a new poetry book or poet.   Here are a few new books:

Ted Kooser, US Poet Laureate 2004-2006, has recently published two children’s books:

He talks about how he wrote them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fak0ne7nb3Y


You can hear Koosier read Bag in the Wind here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flRYwtvv2vw


Luci Shaw has a new book coming out called Scape. She is one of my favorite poets and I always want any age student to know her poems. Available here: https://wipfandstock.com/store/Scape_Poems

Mary Oliver’s new book is called Dog Songs. If you haven’t read Mary’s poetry, try any volume.


Cambridge rector and Hobbit-like poet, Malcolm Guite, releases his new poetry book: The Singing BowlSounding the Seasons: Poems for the Christian Year ( sonnets for  the liturgical year) came out last year. Do listen to his readings on his blog:  http://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/

Another Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, just published Aimless Love and is on a book tour so he may be near you this Fall. He will make you laugh.

For Emily Dickinson lovers, there is The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily’s Envelope Poems. This is a facsimile of her manuscripts showing exactly how she wrote her poems on envelopes.

Enjoy a thousand thoughts. Can you name them?

Do you know what I want for Christmas?

*from Mason, C. M. Ourselves, Vol 4, Book 2, p. 10.

© by Bonnie Buckingham 2013

This entry was posted in: A Charlotte Mason Education, Beauty, Poetry, Recitation


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.



    I am glad to hear from you Margaret! Thank you for commenting. Hope you are well. Book coming along too?!

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