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Poems By a Little Girl   By: (1910-1986)

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By Hilda Conkling

With A Preface By Amy Lowell


I have a dream for you, Mother, Like a soft thick fringe to hide your eyes. I have a surprise for you, Mother, Shaped like a strange butterfly. I have found a way of thinking To make you happy; I have made a song and a poem All twisted into one. If I sing, you listen; If I think, you know. I have a secret from everybody in the world full of people But I cannot always remember how it goes; It is a song For you, Mother, With a curl of cloud and a feather of blue And a mist Blowing along the sky. If I sing it some day, under my voice, Will it make you happy?

Thanks are due to the editors of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, The Delineator, Good Housekeeping, The Lyric, St. Nicholas, and Contemporary Verse for their courteous permission to reprint many of the following poems.


A book which needs to be written is one dealing with the childhood of authors. It would be not only interesting, but instructive; not merely profitable in a general way, but practical in a particular. We might hope, in reading it, to gain some sort of knowledge as to what environments and conditions are most conducive to the growth of the creative faculty. We might even learn how not to strangle this rare faculty in its early years.

At this moment I am faced with a difficult task, for here is an author and her childhood in a most unusual position; these two conditions that of being an author, and that of being a child appear simultaneously, instead of in the due order to which we are accustomed. For I wish at the outset to state, and emphatically, that it is poetry, the stuff and essence of poetry, which this book contains. I know of no other instance in which such really beautiful poetry has been written by a child; but, confronted with so unwonted a state of things, two questions obtrude themselves: how far has the condition of childhood been impaired by, not only the possession, but the expression, of the gift of writing; how far has the condition of authorship (at least in its more mature state still to come) been hampered by this early leap into the light?

The first question concerns the little girl and can best be answered by herself some twenty years hence; the second concerns the world, and again the answer must wait. We can, however, do something we can see what she is and what she has done. And if the one is interesting to the psychologist, the other is no less important to the poet.

Hilda Conkling is the younger daughter of Mrs. Grace Hazard Conkling, Assistant Professor of English at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. At the time of writing, Hilda has just passed her ninth birthday. Her sister, Elsa, is two years her senior. The children and their mother live all the year round in Northampton, and glimpses of the woods and hills surrounding the little town crop up again and again in these poems. This is Emily Dickinson's country, and there is a reminiscent sameness in the fauna and flora of her poems in these.

The two little girls go to a school a few blocks from where they live. In the afternoons, they take long walks with their mother, or play in the garden while she writes. On rainy days, there are books and Mrs. Conkling's piano, which is not just a piano, for Mrs. Conkling is a musician, and we may imagine that the children hear a special music as they certainly read a special literature. By "special" I do not mean a prescribed course (for dietitians of the mind are quite as apt to be faddists as dietitians of the stomach), but just that sort of reading which a person who passionately loves books would most want to introduce her children to. And here I think we have the answer to the why of Hilda. She and her sister have been their mother's close companions ever since they were born. They have never known that somewhat equivocal relationship a child with its nurse... Continue reading book >>

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