How We (learn to) Express Ourselves

Today I was fortunate enough to attend Davis Magnet School’s Poetry Cafe.

how we express ourselves

The Poetry Cafe was a Ask for More Arts JumpstART program  supported by Parents for Public Schools of  Greater Jackson. The theme was “self-metaphor” and students from two 4th grade classes presented.

The experience made me wonder about the teachers  that inspired me to write. I began to wonder; How was the love of the written word instilled in me?

As a child, I remember the amount of respect and admiration my father gave words. As a Jew, he valued the words of Torah. As a secular student, he loved books and poems. I would listen to my father read Walt Whitman out loud, squeezing the sound out of each syllable in order to take in all that the word held. I wanted to create something that my father could pick up off of the page. I wanted to orchestrate sentences that would hold his attention long enough for him to look up from the book and say, “Isn’t that incredible?”

Books were always accessible in my house. The youngest daughter by ten years, I had a full library of my sister’s books by the time I could read. The greatest thrill was when my father would catch me taking a new book down from the shelves. A man of very few congratulatory remarks, my father was near impossible to please.  But, if he caught me reading, he would come over to pinch my cheeks and remind me that books were the only way to strengthen my mind.

While I do not agree with many things my father has said over the years, I do agree with his respect for the written word and the power it has over the imagination. I am indebted to my father for instilling in me a deep appreciation for reading. He is the reason I carry two- sometimes three- books with me on a weekend trip. He is the reason I love the feel of books in my hand and the sight of books on the kitchen table. And he is the reason that when I come across a perfectly written sentence, one where the syntax is constructed so flawlessly I have no choice but to reread the sentence until it permeates my skin, he is the reason I consider that phenomenon one of the greatest pleasures in life.


4 thoughts on “How We (learn to) Express Ourselves

  1. Adam Levick says:

    Great post. Nice tribute to your father, and the beauty of the written word. Kol Hakavod, Janine!

  2. You were truly blessed. I, too, grew up surrounded by books. When we were little my mother read “Where The Red Fern Grows” to my brother and I, one chapter at a time, sitting on the sun porch drinking 7-Up. I can still feel the breeze and hear her voice. Even now on the rare occasion I leave the house without at least one book in my purse I feel naked.

  3. Dierdre says:

    Janine, (I have lost your email addr) have you seen this notice from the MAC?:


    The Winter 2010 24-Hour Short Story Contest is now open for entrants! Each contest is limited to 500 entrants so don’t delay if you want to participate.

    1st Place : $300
    2nd Place : $250
    3rd Place : $200

    Entry fee is $5. You can see the complete list of 85 prizes
    and sign up here:

    Dierdre Payne

  4. Lynette says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by Portland Oregon Daily Photo. And thanks for the link to your blog. I like this well-written post, particularly like the sentence about the perfectly written sentence. I appreciate your honesty, too.

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