Genius Child Poem Analysis Essay

This is a song for the genius child,

Sing it softly for the song is wild

Sing it softly as ever you can

lest the song get out of hand

Nobody loves a genius child........

This first stanza of an insightful, yet painful poem written by one if our nation's most prolific writers, the great Langston Hughes, tells the day-to-day experience of millions of gifted children and youth sitting in classrooms everyday unloved, unnoticed, and misunderstood. These young scholars, inventors, creators, and artists attend schools with the expectation that they will be stimulated, challenged, and valued for their ideas, motivation, courage, and creativity.

For far too many, they meet adults who turn a deaf ear, leaving them to feel unloved and under appreciated, and worse who misinterpret their strengths for weaknesses, or deficits. For many gifted learners, being true to themselves leaves them open to criticism, taunting, bullying, disrespect, not only from their age peers, but also from adults : teachers, community members, others who should feel an obligation to help and to nurture their strengths.  

When they express their giftedness they are called crazy, too talkative, too busy, too smart, quirky.  If their intense behavior is manifested in quiet, more subtle behaviors and they crave more isolation, they are criticized for not speaking up, being too sad, being anti-social, or too sensitive. Some have even reported teachers and other adults being threatened by the intelligence and wisdom of the gifted, and responding as though the child or teen was a 'danger' to others in the academic environment.

Research about the characteristics of gifted learners in particular, the intensities and 'overexcitabilities' of gifted people and first hand accounts of what it means to be gifted, has provided more than sufficient evidence of the great needs that gifted or genius children have for support and understanding.

Hughes' poem uses the metaphor of the eagle to express the ability of these young people to 'soar' when given the support and understanding they need. Without this support, understanding and love, the very spirit, the core of what makes them who they are will be destroyed.  

So, for those of you who committed to nurturing the 'genius child'
  • I encourage you during this school year, to do your part to show all children, including ALL gifted children in your environment that you appreciate them, value their strengths, and are available to do what you can to help them 'soar',

  • I encourage you to look among ALL populations to seek out giftedness, appreciate them, and ensure that they have every opportunity to reach their highest potential, and

  • I encourage you to actively show your children and your students through your attention to their intellectual and affective needs that you love the 'genius child' within. Anything less would be a travesty.

..can you love an eagle, tame or wild?
Wild or tame, can you love a monster of frightening name?
Nobody loves a genius child,
Kill him and let his soul run wild.
 -Langston Hughes, 1947

For more information:

Piechowski, M. (2006) Mellow out-they say, If I only could: Intensities and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison,WI:Yunasa books

Homage to Kenneth Koch

If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran
I'd throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap,
scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,,
I'd wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly
Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little
Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I'd throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood &
Agent Orange,
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out
the tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an
Aeon till it came out clean

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