November 21, 2014

Living Zen: An Introduction to Poetry for Kids

How do you feel today? What do you see around you? Do you notice anything different, new, or beautiful?

Did you know that there is a way to paint a picture of the things you see and the ways you feel using words? One way to paint such a picture is through poetry.

There are lots of different poems. Some rhyme, some don’t. Some have rhythm, just like a birdsong or a clacking of a train over tracks, while others have none. Some poems may have one or two words per line, while others may have a whole bunch of words in a line. Some poets like rules to give their words structure and form. Other poets prefer the total lack of structure and form - no rules. The neat thing about poetry is that you can say whatever you want, any way you like!

Take a look at this poem - it's called a haiku:

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond
Splash! Silence again.

- Matsuo Basho

This poem is one of the most famous haikus of all time written by a master poet. What do you think this person was writing about? A frog? Water? Sound and silence? Maybe the poem is about something else. A feeling? An observation? Why do you think this poem became so famous? What does it mean to you? Whatever you see in it, I bet you can see more!

This special kind of poem, or haiku, has a very fixed and rigid structure, although you may not realize it. It has three lines and a very specific rhythm. Count the syllables in each line. Do you see the form? The pattern? The first line has 5 syllables, the second line has 7 syllables, and the third line goes back to 5 syllables. And that’s the formula for a haiku: 5  7  5.

What do you think about these haiku?:

Daffodils in bloom
Children playing together
Happy as can be

- Louise M. Age 12, England

The shiniest sun
Was up in very blue skies
And happiness grew

- Cassie D. Age 9, Minnesota

A lovely best friend
Silky hair covers her head
And she makes me laugh

- Danielle M. Age 8, England

Give it a try yourself! Take a look at the world around you. Think about something you like, something that makes you happy or that helps you feel better when you’ve had a bad day. Or, go outside and try to look at something you’ve never really noticed before ... a tree, the sky, a butterfly... and then paint a picture of what you see using poetry. You don’t have to write a haiku. Just write the way that feels best to you.

If you do write a poem and would like to share it with us here, please e-mail it to FamilyCircle(at) We’d also love to see any drawings, paintings, or artwork you want to share with us. Please include your name and age. We may add your poems and art to our gallery!