Then, one day, when Edmund was six and a half, Mrs. Mapleberry added a new book to her threadbare library called ‘Poetry of the Heart,’ by Alam Beets.
It was odd, Edmund thought, that there might be another book in the world about poetry; hadn’t Sir Ekes already written one? It made sense to Edmund that there might be more than one book for the sciences, as there seemed to be lots of different ways to interpret the natural world, but words were words. What else was there to say?
Out of a twisted curiosity, he took the old torn book and tried to read it. He was immediately disappointed; the poems were terrible. Some were short, others long, and they never ascribed to the appropriate meter or rhyming scheme for their content. Most didn’t even rhyme at all. Edmund tried asking Mrs. Mapleberry to say several words just to see if he had been pronouncing them wrong his whole life. She just gave him the same look she always gave him whenever he asked an important question, and then went back to her washing while he went back to the book.
Half of the poems were about love, the other half about nothing at all. None of them used proper allegory, or even, as Sir Ekes put it, ‘a solid reliable English simile.’ After he had read the book from cover to cover, he tossed the book aside, resolved not to think about it again.
After two days of completely failing to not think about it, he asked Mrs. Mapleberry if he could read it again.
His poems became long and winding. He began to write about the birds and the tree and the Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies. He wrote about his fingers after they turned blue in the snow, and the sound of the clock that was kept tightly wound in the orphanage. He wrote about the wood weevils and their long noses, and the orphans with their short fingers and knobbly knees. He kept writing until he completely filled one notebook, and had to ask for another from Mrs. Mapleberry.
It was wonderful. Suddenly, the toolbox of his mind had found a whole new set of tools; ones that were not bound by the rules and guidelines of his old ones. He loved the feeling of connecting all the words together like mechanisms in a clock, or bones in a body. He couldn’t dissect animals, or study the ebb and flow of clouds in the sky, but he could study sound and language, and how words became art. It was still like math, but so much more complicated and delightfully organic.
He had stepped from the warm and comfortable world of learning into the wonderful and thrilling world of discovery.
It wasn’t much of a hobby, but it was his. A little oasis for Edmund — a place to be away from everyone and everything. And so, while the other children played in the yard or talked amongst each other, Edmund spent most of his time scribbling away in his notebook and filling it with strange and wonderful words that sometimes he didn’t even understand.