It’s time to put on some tunes, pour a cup of tea, and swing to poetry. From jazz to hip hop and from classical to rap, let's read poems that will make you dance and sing!
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Music and poetry have always been linked together. In Ancient Greece, poems were written to be accompanied by a lyre (a kind of harp). In fact, that’s where “lyric” poetry gets its name!
On the other side of the globe in ancient China, the first recorded collection of poetry, the Shijing, was a group of songs. Before writing became common worldwide, people used music to make long epics entertaining and easy to remember.
As poetry has changed and grown over the years, it hasn’t lost that sense of music. Take a look at a stanza from a poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar:
From “The Corn-Stalk Fiddle”
Read the whole poem to get a sense of the fiddle’s music as it moves across the strings.
Even today, poets often take inspiration from musical forms to create their poetry. Many of the poems listed below are inspired by music, from rap to hip hop and jazz!
Music at Teatime
During your teatime, learn about an area of music you don’t know much about, or enjoy a new combination of music and poetry!
Jazz, Blues, and Swing
Watch and listen to a video of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a 1940s big band that was all-female and featured mostly black musicians. You can also read their story in poetry in Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World, by Marilyn Nelson.
You can enjoy more books about jazz, the blues, and gospel music here:
- Jazz, by Walter Dean Myers: feel the rhythms and energy of jazz through the fifteen poems in this award-winning collection
- Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits with Art Print, by Wynton Marsalis: If you want to learn more about jazz artists, this is the book for you!
- Becoming Billie Holiday, by Carole Boston Weatherford: experience Billie Holiday’s childhood and transformation into one of the greatest jazz singers of all time
- Roots and Blues: A Celebration, by Arnold Adoff: learn about the history, beauty, and sadness of the blues in this stirring collection
- I See the Rhythm of Gospel, by Toyomi Igus: from swing music in Harlem to gospel songs in church choirs, feel the rhythms and listen to the powerful history of gospel music
Learn about some classical pieces of music from Classics for Kids. The website lets you listen to music, play games, and find ideas for activities or lessons. Then, take a look at these books:
- Call Down the Moon: Poems of Music, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston: poems about instruments, musicians, and more!
- The Carnival of the Animals, by Jack Prelutsky: a visual and poetic imagining of Camille Saint-Saëns’ music of the same name, complete with a CD!
Modern and More
Want to enjoy something a little more contemporary?
- Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni: If you’re going to read one book about poetry and music, choose this one. It’s the perfect blend of rhythm, music, and poetry, complete with a CD to bring the poems to life.
- Hip & Hop, Don’t Stop!, by Jef Czekaj: This book is great for reading aloud, featuring a rap competition between a bunny and a turtle. Who do you think will win?
If you still need more suggestions, we’ll leave you with one last title. The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music by Jaime Adoff focuses on all sorts of musical styles, as well as the ways that music can infuse your life. It’s especially great for teens who are starting to discover music on their own.
So go, sing, dance, and enjoy a music-filled poetry teatime!