She mistyped it. Poetry Dare became Poetry Date. Around here, no mistake goes unnoticed for its possibility. One could even argue, like John Cleese suggests, that the concept of creative error should be happily forgotten. Done. Thus, the Poetry Date is now an item.
It’s simple. Find someone you love (or like), and plan a poetry date. Friend, sibling, co-worker, lover, you name it. Choose a poet, a venue, a snack or a drink, and read to each other. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Today, two sisters will prove it to you, with a Tolkien poetry date they had over tea and red velvet cupcakes.
It was a quiet Saturday. The girls were doing their usual Saturday things. It was snowing. Again.
“Why don’t you two do a Tolkien poetry date?” I suggested. They listened while I explained the idea and offered to make the new Tolkien tea we’d ordered (because my eldest is excited about taking the upcoming Tolkien workshop).
I went about making a quick Tolkien playlist for the occasion, and my eldest arranged the table with the girls’ special tea set and a fancy plate of the red velvet cupcakes they’d made for Valentine’s Day. She grabbed two Tolkien books and began paging through them. Shortly, her sister arrived clad in what was meant to be hobbit-wear. A thick black belt cinched her waist. A dagger (just a blunt one, okay?) was tucked at her side. A huge scarf became a floor-length cloak. They were ready.
I poured the Wizard tea. Cupcakes were munched. And Bilbo, and Sam, and characters I’d never even heard of took the stage. The words of Tolkien were beauteous (yes, beauteous!) and sometimes rhyme-funny and always calling for just one more.
It was the girls’ date, so sometimes I sat and listened, and sometimes I moved into the kitchen. At one point, my youngest came from the dining room. “I need a knife, ” she opened the utensils drawer. “I would just use my dagger, but I think that’s a little bit impolite. And, anyway, I need to keep it concealed.”
Tolkien poems rolled, rollicked, rumbled. Or simply astonished with their lyricism.
We laughed at Pippin’s bath song:
Sing hey! for the bath at the close of the day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!
O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.
O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.
O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!
We hushed at the song of the Elven king and the depth of my eldest’s mythic longing as she read solemnly and powerfully:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Man doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
There was the “River-woman’s daughter/Slender as the willow-wand, clearer than the water.” The moon made an appearance: “By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us!” Swords, of course (but where were the daggers?). “Yellow leaves and gossamer” and “morning mist and silver sun.”
The moon appeared again. My eldest began reading:
The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone.
Maybe it was the mention of walking that inspired my youngest to begin walking around the table. She listens well that way—while moving. She peered into the mirror of the glass case that holds our porcelain, pulled the cloak up like a hood. At the end of the poem she declared, “This is just fun to wear. And the dagger sticks out just the right amount at the back. Then, if I want it to show all the way, I can sweep the cloak aside dramatically.”
Then the cloak-clad girl took up The Hobbit and found Bilbo Baggins’s plate song. Walking back and forth (yes, dramatically), cloak trailing behind, she read:
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates—
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Splash the wine on every door!
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’re finished, if they are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully! carefully with the plates!
By the end of the poem, a poem apparently memorized, both girls were chanting together to the air and laughing, “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!/So carefully! carefully with the plates!” (Never was it so easy to get two kids to memorize a sonnet!)
After the rousing plate song, Tolkien riddles ensued. My eldest read them, and we tried to decipher them. Most were quite tricky, but at last…
“Ha ha!” I said, having figured the riddle. “Like Pooh, ” I added.
“No, that’s ‘A ha!’, ” I stood (literally) corrected.
“We should do a poetry date with Pooh, ” I turned the conversation. My eldest gave assent. Pooh is the best poet (no slight to the great poets of the world).
“Do I have to dress up like a stuffed animal?” my youngest asked with a mischievous smile. We all laughed, and she decided—in somewhat seriousness: “Then I will wear my adventuring boots.”
That sounded perfect to me. A poetry date should be an adventure. This one surely was.