"People need poetry, but they won't pay for it," Miss Renshaw explained. "The great hope of a poet, girls, is to find a patron. Someone who will provide them with money and even a haven of peace and tranquillity while they write their poetry." "Like a husband," suggested Georgina.
"In some ways," conceded Miss Renshaw, a little frostily. "Why do you need money? Is it very expensive to write poetry?" asked Cubby, puzzled.
"It's hard to have a job when you're writing poems," said Cynthia in a worldly sort of way.
Why? wondered Cubby, although she did not say so out loud. Her father took the train to work and back every morning and evening, twenty minutes each way into the city. He could write a poem every day on the train in both directions. At that rate, he could write ten poems a week.
But not Morgan. Morgan was a real poet poor, handsome, clever, and even famous, Miss Renshaw said, if you spoke to the right people.
"Are his poems in books?" asked the oldest Elizabeth.
"Morgan is widely published," said Miss Renshaw evasively. "Can you write poems too, Miss Renshaw?" asked Bethany, with her big eyes.
"We can all write poems," replied Miss Renshaw, "if we allow ourselves. But we need to feel free to write poetry. We need to stop thinking of the facts, and think more about our feelings."
"Let it all hang out," agreed Cynthia.
Cubby pictured the family washing on the clothesline in the backyard shirts, skirts, shorts, and underwear, spinning in the wind.
"How do you write a poem?" asked long-haired Elizabeth, tossing her tight black plaits back over her shoulders.
"Aha!" said Miss Renshaw. "Now, that is the question. You need to get out of here to write real poetry. You need to get away, outside these walls, these floors."
She stamped her foot on the linoleum beneath them, splotched with old chewing gum and the remains of crawling insects. She stamped on the overhanging gloom of indoors, the narrow benches, the damp bricks, and the chapel of hidden windows, wood and brass and cloth.
"You must look up into the sky, open your minds, your eyes, your hearts! Poems will appear in the open air!" Miss Renshaw cried. "You need to reach out and grasp the words from the sunlight. Most of all, you must stop thinking. That's the real secret. Stop thinking."
How? thought Cubby. How can you stop thinking? "We must get away from this place," said Miss Renshaw, shaking her springy head. "Away from this school, this institution. Then we can find true poetry. To go far, far away into nature, grass, water, the huge sky, and the deep brown earth." Although, not that far, it turned out. Just as far as the Ena Thompson Memorial Gardens. Back they went, several times, with pencils and sheets of lined paper, to write poetry. Miss Renshaw did not write any poems, though, not that they saw.
"Run away, girls," Miss Renshaw would say as they passed through the archway into the gardens. "Go and listen to the running water, then pick up your pencils and write a poem about it. I will stay here in the shade and talk with Morgan." Obediently, gladly, the little girls would run away through the heavy-branched trees and careful rosebushes, across the samples of grasses from South America. They would stand and listen to the bubbling fountain, and the clip-clopping of the ducks as they paddled about the glossy pond.
This was just the sort of thing you should be able to write a poem about. But when Cubby listened to the fountain, it only made her think of the broken cistern in the toilets under the gym, mossy and dank and smelling like a dead body mixed up with old cartons of rotting milk. You couldn't write a poem about that, could you? Although Icara said you could write poems about horrible things just as much as beautiful things.
Excerpted from The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky. Copyright © 2013 by Ursula Dubosarsky. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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