Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poetry Through the Ages

Big assembly on Friday: Grades 3-8.

When Principal Milissa Dachisen showed me the schedule week before last (had I agreed to that? Had I (gasp) even suggested it? What was I thinking???), I kind of gulped. I admit it. I was afraid. We were going to write on Monday and Friday and have a show the last hour of the day. In between were three other schools. What if the writers forgot their poems on Friday? What if the eighth graders laughed at the little ones. What if the third graders had no patience for 8th grade angst? What if kids were afraid to read with all the other ages watching? And on top of it, my entire digestive system had exploded with a nasty flu bug. What if I wasn't up to the task?

But, if there is one thing I have learned about school visits, it is that the author can show no fear. Fear makes the audience twitch. Fear constricts the throat and the writing instrument. Worst. Fear is contagious.

But as the week progressed, once again I was reminded that poetry isn't just for one age group or another. Look at these lines borrowed from several third grade New Year's Resolution poems posted in the hallway. I see that the teacher had the students write these based on my poem "Angry," which ends with the lines "Can't you see, there's no one else to blame but me." What the writers and teachers probably didn't realize is that these third grade poems read just like the self-talk I gave myself this morning (substitute a workout for the part about basketball and gymnastics).


Do chores.
Play basketball.
Neat handwriting.
Study hard.
Go green.
Try surfing.
Learn gymnastics.
Sleep better.
Paint more.
Make friends.
Get healthy.
More recess.


Okay, the wish to try surfing is simply metaphorical for a poet living in OH in the winter, but the wish to try new things is spot on. On Tuesday of that week (did I mention the part about being sick?) Principal Audrey Wallock invited her mother to share the poetry day at Kennedy School.
Pearl is 87 years young and still writing. She read me a poem about WWI, about her grand children, about being a mother. She cheerfully acted as a visual aid to explain to the kids that poetry is a hobby that doesn't wear out with age. I sincerely hope I did not make her sick.


Here I am with Matthew Stone (picture taken by his mom, Michele, my savior for the week.) Matthew is a third grader at Jefferson School. Hard to explain how helpful Michele and her family were to me that week. Many many thanks. I've heard rumors that I DID make Matthew's brother Kevin sick. Soooooo sorry.

A poetry day at a school is only supposed to make one thing contagious and that is not fear and NOT the flu. It's words. And despite the subzero weather and other unnatural impediments, by Friday afternoon, it was apparent that words had caught fire. The principals even jumped in with their own poems composed just for the occasion. How's that for positive modeling! We barely had time to squeeze in all the poets at the mike, each performing to thunderous applause. The local newspaper even came to report on the event. Many thanks to Kelly, Michele and Milissa for making this such a successful week.

1 comment:

Lee Ann Spillane: said...

Sounds like a great visit!!