Robert Hass and sharing poetry among generations

May 31, 2010

A curious thing happened to me yesterday in New York City.  Robert Hass read at Poets House and gave a program for children in the morning.  I took my six-year-old son, Walker, with me because he’s started writing poems (he’s got me beat by 3 years!) and we spent the day in the City alone together.

Bob Hass reading Walker's poem

When I told Walker we were going to see and hear one of my poetry teachers, he said, “That’s cool, because he taught you and now you’re teaching me and when I have children I’ll teach them…it’s like we’re keeping it going.”

Indeed, it felt like that when I introduced Bob to my son.  Bob has grandchildren Walker’s age and it wasn’t lost on me that there was something transpiring between our three generations.

Walker brought one of his poems to share with Bob and handed it to him in an envelope.  During the program, in which Bob was reading poems by children from his River of Words project, he pulled out Walker’s poem and asked if Walker wanted to read it.  Walker shyly declined and Bob asked for permission to read it to the audience.  Walker beamed.  (So did I.)

Bob read Walker’s poem and declared, “This is a real poem.”  We both smiled.  It was a magical moment to have a mentor appreciate the work of your son.  I was really feeling blessed that morning.

Bob and Walker

Later, after wandering around Tribeca and the wonderful riverside parks along the Hudson, Walker and I sat on the rocks behind Poets House in the newly opened South Teardrop Park and listened to Bob and his wife Brenda Hillman read their poems into the late afternoon.  What a magical day.

Here is Walker’s poem, “The Snow I’ve Been Waiting For”:

The Snow that crunches beneath my feet.

Oh the wonderful snow, snow, snow.

The snow that tastes so wonderful.

The snow, the snow, the snow.

The snow I’ve been waiting for all along,

The snow I’ve been waiting for all year.

The snow, the snow, the snow.

The Snow I’ve been waiting for.

–Walker Anderson, 6

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5 Responses to “Robert Hass and sharing poetry among generations”

  1. […] Walker, to Poets House to meet and hear one of my poetry teachers, Robert Hass.  As I wrote about earlier on this blog, Walker brought a poem to share, which Bob read aloud during the morning children’s […]

  2. The father-son poetry connection is a beautiful gift, isn’t it?

  3. I was reminded of this post in response to a FB post and comment thread. Here is my comment: “My son, 14, has given into the stereotype that boys don’t read. This is the same boy who, at six, went with me to see Robert Hass at Poet’s House. Bob had been my teacher many years before and, in a surreal moment, Walker shared a poem he had written with Bob, who then read it out loud during the program, which consisted of poems written by children from the River of Words project. I wrote about this experience on my poetry blog (see below). I’m not sure what it is that has changed Walker’s perspective on not only poetry, but reading in general, but it saddens me. I think it may be a combination of screen devices (phone, tablet, computer) and the way reading and especially poetry is taught in schools. Of course, I may also be to blame; as my children get older they are more reluctant to share their writing with me for fear that I will judge it. I don’t and I wouldn’t, but they feel I will. I’m hoping that, someday, my son’s interest in reading and, perhaps even poetry, will be rekindled. Alas, I’m not sure it will and this saddens me, because a love of reading has opened up so many worlds for me,. Moreover, to see one of my children reject reading outright seems a troubling symptom of our society at large, which is deeply disturbing to say the least. ”

    Perhaps he’ll come around again. Who can say?

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