Friday, August 29, 2014

She Sells Seashells - Borrowing Lines

Painted Seashells by A. - Ocean City, Maryland
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Our family spent last week camping on Assateague Island, and one evening brought us to the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland.  There I met a young girl, perhaps twelve years old, who sells seashells down by the seashore, just like in the tongue twister.  I was enchanted by her and by her shells, and I bought one to hang on our Christmas tree this year.  (As soon as I find this shell, I will share a photo of it with you.) I asked permission to take the picture of all of this young artist's shells, and she kindly allowed me to do so.

Later, I saw some other customers talking with her about her work.

Seashell Seller - Ocean City, MD
Photo by Amy LV

One reason I love writing poetry is that it causes me to stop more often, to pay close attention to the beautiful people and things I find along the path of life.  And when a moment of life crosses a song or poem or book or tongue twister that I already have in my heart - well, wow!  That is like a small spark glowing.  I was excited all week to come back to this old wooden desk, to write about this creative child and her salty, painty shells.

You may have noticed that today's poem uses words from the famous tongue twister, and sometimes poets do this - borrow lines from other poems, songs, sayings.  There is even a type of poem called a cento, wherein a poem is completely made up of lines from other poems.  You might want to try some borrowing in your own writing. Simply open a poetry book, read some poems, choose a line you love, and let it inspire a poem of your own.  You might begin your poem with the line you love, or you might tuck it into the middle of your poem.  You might choose a line from a poem or song that you already have inside of you, as I did today.  If you borrow a line from a famous poem or song, your readers will have fun discovering it and remembering that other song or poem too. Your piece and the other piece will echo back and forth to each other.

Remember, borrowing one line is very different from copying someone else's poem.  If you read a poem by another poet, and if you love it, copy it into your notebook and include the author's name.  It is wondrous to have a collection of poems that match your soul completely.

She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore.
The shells she sells are sea-shells, I'm sure.
For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore
Then I'm sure she sells sea-shore shells.

Did you know that this seashell tongue twister was originally part of a song written by Terry Sullivan in 1908?  It is based on a real woman named Mary Anning.

I have been away for much of the summer: teaching, making jam, playing in water.  But now fall calls, and so I am back, here at the old desk, so happy to see you again.  

Jone is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Check it Out.  Hop on over there to meet some new poetry friends, visit with some old ones, and simply enjoy the offerings.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Charming poem and backstory. Sounds like you had a wonderful summer :).

  2. I had not known of the connection to Mary Anning (I've always been fascinated by her!), Amy - so, thank you! And thank you for the gift of your poem, too - I'll have to try this with my kiddos this year...let's see what poetic fun we could have with tongue twisters!

  3. Love, love, love reading your poems, Amy! I know that old wooden desk is glad you're back!

  4. I am in love with this young entrepreneur!

  5. Amy,
    I shared this one with a few friends. I felt like I was there by the sea shore with you as I read this.

  6. Thanks for teaching me a thing or two with this post, Amy. The painted shells are wonderful, and something I can so totally see my own daughter doing. (Too bad shells are hard to come by in central Florida!)

  7. what a fun poem - and what beautiful painted sea shells she's selling by the sea shore.

  8. She sells seashells by the sea. I love your poem, Amy, and this young girls artistic abilities. = )