Poetry Rice

One summer, I went to Nicaragua with a bunch of teenagers. We only had 10 days, so we did our best to prepare for our journey. We knew we were being led by a tiny town’s group of moms (like a PTA) to add an addition onto the one school in town. We knew we’d be mixing concrete by hand in the dance of six shovels and six people spinning in a methodical circle. We knew the brick maker dads would put us to work and teach us so much about life in the town. We even knew it would be remote, humid (even for a native Houstonian) and we’d have to slather ourselves in suncreen all day.

What we did NOT know was that poetry would be the theme of our trip. Poetry, really!?

Ciudad Dario is much like any other town in the world–it is bustling with life at its own unique pace, its residents are well-connected and know no strangers, and life is simple and beautiful. However, Dario is named after one of the most famous poets, Ruben Dario, a hometown hero who created Spanish Modernism and allowed his language to take on new life over 150 years ago. Modernism as a term was a pejorative label that those who didn’t like the changes in literature and culture of the time used. And, just like Quakers and Mormons, Modernists decided to claim that ugly term for themselves and obtained with it its power. (Go, them!)

Statue of Ruben Dario in the town square

Back to the poetry…it was everywhere.

2nd grader reciting poetry

There were streets and buildings named after Mr. Dario. He was revered by all in the regions. In school, children took as much pride in writing and reciting poetry as they did in playing soccer on the school’s field! It was wild. Poetry was as ingrained into the town’s culture as the presence of rice with every meal. Every meal. Instead of a prose approach to conversation, I noticed the ease of metaphor and even poetry in daily chats with friends and neighbors. Kids used metaphor more in this town than I had ever seen in my travels in Central and South America, where metaphor is already very strong. It was pretty amazing. Poetry was also a way for the local Nicaraguans to invite my US group into their world–through stories, explanations of life via metaphor, jokes, and–of course–talk of poetry over beautiful dishes around the table.

We learned to write poetry while swinging in hammocks every day, and the poems were recited by the young and the old anywhere we went, even on outings to learn the (very difficult) art of Nicaraguan tortilla-making. I was studying Psalm 150 yesterday with some new friends down the street–poems are so amazing! They allow us to share our feelings and thoughts in a way that is relatable to many people. Just think, your and my very specific story can be transformed into a poem that many people can relate to. How great is that!

Have you written a poem lately (or ever)? Perhaps you could try–there are over 50 genres of poetry…sonnet, epic, haiku, free verse, etc. What if we tried an acrostic, using our first name? Here’s an example, using each letter of my first name:

Image may contain: 4 people
Chenile stems are the craftiest craft I can do, ha!
  • Laurel is wondering how you’re doing
  • As she continues to write this poem today
  • Understanding that you might be tired
  • Reading this very long blog post
  • Even if you’re sleepy, remember you are
  • Loved immensely by a God who invented poetry.

Okay, that was not so great. Maybe you can do better with your own name? I hope you have a bit of fun with it, not taking yourself (or this poem) too seriously. You are so very loved.


Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
  • THIS SATURDAY, May 4: Toddler Camp (& Parents’ Camp), 10-11am
  • This Sunday, May 5: Children at the Lord’s Table (a special Communion class for kids and youth), during BFGs


  1. Holy cow that last picture of you holding the buckets. You look exactly like your mom. She was so adorable when I dropped off her Amigos prize. Carol Caring is my daily goal And loving everyone Really isn’t that tough to do Oh, come on try it. Love all and live well.

    Sent from my iPhone



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