August 12, 2023

By David L. Harrison
Missouri’s Poet Laureate

Little kids don’t know a poem is a poem. Their brains are busy tracking clues about their rapidly expanding young universe. Most of the words they know wear work clothes that take care of daily needs. But sometimes those same words dress up and arranged just so spin pictures in children’s minds that transport them beyond the room where they sit, spark imagination, and leave them hungry for more. Do you remember the first book you ever read? All by yourself? That was a magic moment that helped make possible the way the rest of your life turned out. I wrote a poem about my own memory of that occasion. It was in my first book of poetry (Somebody Catch My Homework, Wordsong, 1993) and is sandblasted into the sidewalk of the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix.

My Book

I did it!
I did it!
Come and look
At what I’ve done!
I read a book!

When someone wrote it
Long ago
For me to read,
How did he know
That this was the book
I’d take from the shelf
And lie on the floor
And read by myself?

I really read it!
Just like that!
Word by word,
From first to last!

I’m sleeping with
This book in bed,
This first FIRST book
I’ve ever read!

Eventually we all grow up, get jobs, start families. Sports pages, market trends, and recipes replace picture books. But poetry is still with us, enriching our lives in songs, plays, readings, and thousands of books. Cats, the musical inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poetry, ran 18 years on Broadway and was seen by 73 million people worldwide. A 2022 survey by National Endowment for the Arts shows that 22.4 million adults in America read poetry in the last year.

Reading choices are endless both in print and electronically. Some poets write for adults, some for young people, and some for both. I don’t read all poets any more than I sample all wines, and what I like you might not. To choose a book of poems that fits you, especially if it has been a while since you’ve read much poetry, visit a library or book store, test-read a few poems, then take home a book you like. Settle into a good chair and share a human connection with a poet, somewhere in his or her own chair, who dreamed and wrote it down.

If you have school-age kids or grandkids, don’t forget them because they, too, have personal tastes about what kinds of poems they like best. Surveys have shown that in general kids like poems with short lines, poems that rhyme, and poems that make them laugh. Thousands of new titles are published each year so there’s going to be something for every need and taste.

I’m Missouri’s Poet Laureate (July 2023 – June 2025) and I hope to see many of you in person and electronically as I suggest and demonstrate ways to enjoy poetry. Website:; blog:; Facebook: