For a few weeks now I’ve been casually searching for a poem to read with E before her first day of preschool. One of my favorites since I was in high school is a poem titled Good Timber, by Douglas Malloch. I recite it to myself whenever I’m experiencing anything particularly challenging, sort of like an anthem to remind myself that challenges make us stronger:
A tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.
Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
Weirdly, just know when I Googled to double check that I’d remembered it correctly, I realized I must have memorized an abridged version because the above is actually just a re-arranged excerpt. As I read the poem in its entirety, I realized perhaps I was aiming a bit too high with the message of determination, resilience and strength that I hoped to impart on my daughter as she started her school career. After all, I had fallen in love with poetry as a kid via nursery rhymes like Wee Willy Winkie, and poets like Jack Prelutsky whose magical way with words and ideas had enchanted me as a young kid. Maybe I could give her that before I hit her with the John Donne.
And truthfully, Wee Willie Winkie remains a favorite. I love to act it out with my oldest daughter. I still vividly remember my mom reading nursery rhymes and poetry to my siblings and I growing up. We were always at the library refreshing our book collection. She recently gave me one of my most treasured tomes: The Humpty Dumpty Book, illustrated by Jean Chandler, which flooded me with memories. The illustrations in particular always struck me — I was obsessed with the faces of the little girls and boys.
But poetry in particular, paired with beautiful illustration, always really resonated with me as a kid. Maybe it hinted at my love of language and literature later on, but having so much exposure to it from a young age probably encouraged the affection along.
With my revised goal in mind, I continued my hunt for the right poem again earlier today as Brian flopped himself on our bed. I found myself looking up one of my favorite Jack Prelutsky poems so I could read it to him to see what he thought. Brian loves a good hot dog, so it was an easy choice since it’s one of my all-time favorite Prelutsky poems: Fearless Flying Hotdogs.
While I was Googling around trying to find it, I happened to see that today is his birthday — what are the odds? I feel like it’s a sign.
What do you think? Do we have a winner? I think Emilia will love it.