Monday, 16 March 2009

About Hilda Conkling

After writing the previous post I dug around a bit furthur:
Hilda Conkling lived 1919-1986 in
Massachusetts, USA & all her published poetry was created between the age of 4 or 5 to10. As she got older, her mother stopped writing them down, apparently she stopped making poems when she hit her teens & is not known to have written poetry later in life.

Mmm, that makes me wonder.... did she really not write any, or just not tell people about it? did she feel she could not match her earlier work? or what?
She spoke the poems, fully formed, word perfect & remembered them exactly... were they 'channelled'? as a child, was she in touch with her 'higher- self' or 'spirit guides' that spoke directly through her sub-conscious?

Did they come from her or did her mother, also a poet actually write them?- it seems not
has an interesting preface by Amy Lowell written when Hilda was 9- here are some extracts:

"Hilda tells her poems, and the method of it is
this: They come out in the course of conversation,
and Mrs. Conkling is so often engaged in
writing that there is nothing to be remarked if she
scribbles absently while talking to the little girls.
But this scribbling is really a complete draught of
the poem. Occasionally Mrs. Conkling writes
down the poem later from memory and reads it
afterwards to the child, who always remembers
if it is not exactly in its original form. No line,
no cadence, is altered from Hilda's version; the
titles have been added for convenience, but they
are merely obvious handles derived from the

Now to turn to the book itself; at the very start,
here is an amazing thing. This slim volume contains
one hundred and seven separate poems, and
that is counting as one all the very short pieces
written between the ages of five and six. Certainly
that is a remarkable output for a little girl,
and the only possible explanation is that the poems
are perfectly instinctive. There is no working
over as with an adult poet. Hilda is subconscious,
not self-conscious. Her mother says that she
rarely hesitates for a word...

The child who writes them frequently transcends
herself, but her thoughts for the most part are
those proper to every imaginative child. Fairies
play a large role in her fancies, and so does the
sandman. There are kings, and princesses, and
golden wings, and there are reminiscences of
story-books, and hints of pictures that have pleased

The little girl is quite
untroubled by any questions of technique.

... Did she quite grasp its meaning
herself? We may doubt it. In this poem, the
subconscious is very much on the job.

... If a child can write
such a poem at eight years old, what does it mean?
That depends, I think, on how long the instructors
of youth can be persuaded to keep "hands off."
A period of imitation is, I fear, inevitable, but if
consciousness is not induced by direct criticism, if
instruction in the art of writing is abjured, the
imitative period will probably be got through
without undue loss. I think there is too much
native sense of beauty and proportion here to be
entirely killed even by the drying and freezing
process which goes by the name of education."

It seems the writer had a premonition that childhood may have been the prime time of Hilda's output. I'd rather like to think that she did continue to write or speak poetry, but maybe, self- consciously, chose not to share them.


Rose said...

Such talent...

Mel said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I couldn't agree more with the idea that children are naturally creative and if left alone, will produce wonderful things. It is the sad case of the educational system, in its attempts to 'teach' the 'right' way to do things, that much of this innate wonder is lost - either because it is extinguished altogether, or because the child no longer has a safe place to express herself.

brightest blessings


Paula - Buenos Aires said...

From my own experience:
I started writing at a very young age. So young I didn´t really know how to write and my notebooks were just tangled lines, lol. My mom still keeps them but has forgotten what the words were (she did not go as far as Hilda´s mom).

Then I learnt how to write and kept writing until one day I just stopped. Did I become too concious? Maybe. Did life /school come in the way? No, not really. It just didn´t "happen" any more.

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