Friday, October 10, 2014

Hilda Conkling - Poet/Poetry Study

Hilda Conkling was an American poet who lived from 1910-1986. She was the daughter of Grace Hazard Conkling, a poet as well as Assistant Professor of English at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Hilda was born in New York.When she was four years old, her father died. She had one sister, Elsa, two years her senior.

Hilda is notable for having composed most of her poetry as a child, between the ages of four and ten years old. She never wrote down her poems. Instead, they came out in conversation with her mother, who would write down Hilda's words either right at that time or from memory at a later time.

If the latter, she would read the lines of poetry back to Hilda, who would then correct any words or phrases that weren't her original words.

As Hilda grew up, her mother stopped writing down the poems. Hilda is not known to have written any poems as an adult.

Most of Hilda's poetry is focused on nature - both descriptive and fantasy. Other common themes are the love she had for her mother; stories and daydreams; and pictures or books that she enjoyed.

Three collections of Hilda's poetry were published during her life: Poems by a Little Girl (1920, preface by Amy Lowell), Shoes of the Wind (1922), and Silverhorn (1924). Her poems also were included in the anthologies Silver Pennies (1925) and Sing a Song of Popcorn (1988).

Prior to her first book, Hilda was published in many magazines, including Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, The Delineator, Good Housekeeping, The Lyric, St. Nicholas Magazine, and Contemporary Verse.

Below are six of Hilda's poems and the thoughts that Sophia and Olivia had about each one. This poet and poems are among the favorite ones that Olivia has listened to yet as part of poet/poetry study. She liked them so much, in fact, that she is copying some of them into her Commonplace Book so that she can remember them and read them often.


Moon Song

There is a star that runs very fast,
That goes pulling the moon
Through the tops of the poplars.
It is all in silver,
The tall star:
The moon rolls goldenly along
Out of breath.
Mr. Moon, does he make you hurry?

Sophia: It's an interesting one. I like the name. Most poets don't talk like that. Her's is more childish.

Olivia: It makes you think about what she was trying to talk about it. I really like that one. It reminds me of things that I've read about in books.


The chickadee in the appletree
Talks all the time very gently.
He makes me sleepy.
I rock away to the sea-lights.
Far off I hear him talking
The way smooth bright pebbles
Drop into water . . .
Chick-a-dee-dee-dee . . .

Sophia: I think I like this one a little more than the other one. I like the sound of it better, especially the beginning.

Olivia: She's talking about a bird. They are both very good. I can't decide if I like the other more or this one more. I like the end of it and the part about how the pebbles drop into the water.

Red Rooster

Red rooster in your gray coop,
O stately creature with tail-feathers red and blue,
Yellow and black,
You have a comb gay as a parade
On your head:
You have pearl trinkets
On your feet:
The short feathers smooth along your back
Are the dark color of wet rocks,
Or the rippled green of ships
When I look at their sides through water.
I don't know how you happened to be made
So proud, so foolish,
Wearing your coat of many colors,
Shouting all day long your crooked words,
Loud . . . sharp . . . not beautiful!

Sophia: I like this one the most because I like how she described the rooster - the colors and the feathers.

Olivia: That poem reminded me of Chanticleer because he was foolish enough to follow the fox.

Tree Toad

Tree-toad is a small gray person
With a silver voice.
Tree-toad is a leaf-gray shadow
That sings.
Tree-toad is never seen
Unless a star squeezes through the leaves,
Or a moth looks sharply at a gray branch.
How would it be, I wonder,
To sing patiently all night,
Never thinking that people are asleep?
Raindrops and mist, starriness over the trees,
The moon, the dew, the other little singers,
Cricket . . . toad . . . leaf rustling . . .
They would listen:
It would be music like weather
That gets into all the corners
Of out-of-doors.

Every night I see little shadows
I never saw before.
Every night I hear little voices
I never heard before.
When night comes trailing her starry cloak,
I start out for slumberland,
With tree-toads calling along the roadside.
Good-night, I say to one, Good-by, I say to another:
I hope to find you on the way
We have traveled before!
I hope to hear you singing on the Road of Dreams!

Sophia: I like the beginning part of the poem better than the second half because it sounds prettier.

Olivia: I like the beginning of it. The shadows remind me of a Dryad - it's a spirit that lives in trees in Greek mythology.


O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow beard,
Why do you stand so stiff?
There is only the grass to fight!

Sophia: I like this one the best. It's really cute. I could picture it.

Olivia: I like this one too...especially the ending. I could picture the dandelion like a little person with a gun.

Autumn Song

I made a ring of leaves
On the autumn grass:
I was a fairy queen all day.
Inside the ring, the wind wore sandals
Not to make a noise of going.
The caterpillars, like little snow men,
Had wound themselves in their winter coats.
The hands of the trees were bare
And their fingers fluttered.
I was a queen of yellow leaves and brown,
And the redness of my fairy ring
Kept me warm.
For the wind blew near,
Though he made no noise of going,
And I hadn't a close-made wrap
Like the caterpillars.
Even a queen of fairies can be cold
When summer has forgotten and gone!
Keep me warm, red leaves;
Don't let the frost tiptoe into my ring
On the magic grass!

Sophia: I like the part about the frost, but that's about it. Out of all the poems, it's my least favorite ones.

Olivia: I like the beginning part when she was making the ring of leaves. The caterpillars that wound themselves in winter coats reminded me of the woolly bear caterpillars. 

1 comment:

Rita said...

How fascinating that the poems were written by a child! I never heard of her. Imagine if she had grown up and kept writing.