Wednesday, March 11, 2020


I had the children write another response to one of the poems in Brown Girl Dreaming called 'the selfish giant' and where Jackie, the author, first discovers her talent for writing. Earlier in the book she uncovered her siblings' talents, so easy for her to see, and has been wondering if/when she'll discover her own talents. I think that's fairly normal (at least it is something that feels normal to me)—to see and acknowledge the talents of others while overlooking your own talents because they feel too natural, too ordinary (to you) to be commendable.

Jacqueline has a breakthrough with her storytelling and she says, "And I know now / words are my Tingalayo. Words are my brilliance" (p. 248).

So I asked the kids what their brilliance is—and what brilliance they see in each other.

Benjamin, who readily admitted that words aren't his brilliance (but who really likes smashing stuff (and who, I hope, has other talents yet to be discovered because smashing stuff can really only take you so far)) wrote this:

I have the talent of being strong and fixing stuff (like pens).* Zoë has the talent of singing and memorizing songs. Miriam has the talent of composing music and playing organ and Rachel has the talent of annoying me.** Mom has the talent of reading. Dad has the talent of working in peace. Grandma had the talent of finding the fishing show quickly.

* Alexander pulled a pen apart while Benjamin was writing this and Benjamin reassembled it. 
** I told him he needs to think up another talent but so far he hasn't come up with anything. 

He's seven. He's still got time to blossom. And, I mean, he did smash that geode yesterday that no one else could break open. So...props.

Miriam wrote this:

I think I've found what I'm an instrument for
Classical music.
Rock and pop don't appeal to me much.
But ever since I was young,
Bach and Für Elise,
Mozart and Handel,
The tinkling of the keys,
It was magic.
It calmed me.

When I was eight I was an experiment
To see if kids could play organ,
Before they were thirteen.

I could.

I've learned how to play
Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Für Elise,
Now I can play pedals,
And tremolos.
The soft air coming out of a pipe.
The stop Spitzflöte.
I've learned Diapason, 2', 4', 8'
The air coming fast and loud.

Music spoke to me in words you cannot learn,
Words you can't speak with words
Unless in song.
Words that you can hear,
That aren't words at all.

The music notes
Pizzacato, Legato, Staccato,
Sad and slow like a boat moaning in the water
Monotonous and calm like a wailing Tibetan bowl.

The music notes come fast to me as I compose.
Almost a writer but with different words.

Musical words.

And then she wrote this:

What Music Is

The music to a writer is words.
Spilling out of a favourite pen
A magical fountain with black water
Forming words.

The music to an artist is colour,
Carefully chosen
Complementing skintones
Forming paintings.

Forming music.

And, because I had also asked them to think about the talents of others, she wrote this:

Zoë can sing,
The words loud and clear,
Cutting through the air, calm and beautiful,
Slicing through memory,
Making you tear up.
The notes sometimes wrong,
But still a canary.
She paints with her songs,
Painting a picture that only she can see.
Swaying in the trance of beauty.

So, like, class dismissed, I guess.


  1. Wow! Miriam's poetry! Just wow.

  2. I hope it is okay that I shared this poetry with Nora and Denis. Nora then asked to share it with others involved in Organ First.
    Dr. Don Cook says: "What a beautiful response to our little experiment! Thank you for sharing it with us – it warms my heart and makes me grateful to be a small part of something very big in the lives of a few. . ."