The Cremation of Sam McGee

It was dark and we were all lying in bed cuddling when Emily’s sleepy voice said, “Daddy, say the poem again, please? The one with the Sam McGee?

Most of us have seen the commercials on television – sing to your children – where the moms and dads sing fun nursery rhymes to their small children. Just as important can be poetry, often sparse and to the point, yet incredibly detailed and rich with description and vision.

When Dave first recited The Cremation of Sam McGee I was surprised it didn’t give her nightmares. Instead, she has asked for it again and again.

At first he merely recited the parts he remembered and then finally looked it up online and read it in its entirety. At just four years of age, Emily was enthralled.

Here it is in case you have not heard of it – The Cremation of Sam McGee

As recently as my grandmother’s generation, reciting poetry was expected and promoted. After her death in 2001, I inherited a tattered book of poetry that my grandmother had received from one of her grade-school teachers after a perfect recital of a Wordsworth poem.

The Benefits of Poetry

  • Enables children to appreciate the sound and imagery of language 

  • Invites children to understand and view themselves and their world in new ways 

  • Enriches childrens’ lives as they discover words, sound, and rhythm in unique, creative ways 

  • Intrigues children as it offers puzzles within puzzles 

  • Captures the essence of meaning in the sparest of language

Poetry, whether in children’s rhymes or the heady stuff of Longfellow, can fire the imagination more than picture books or movies ever could. For each child, the vision created from the spare verse is different and unique.

For us, it comes down to snuggles and magic as my husband’s voice slowly recites in the dark,

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.
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