April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot
So that's why April is the cruelest month (not because you have to file your taxes), and that's why April is National Poetry Month. Between testing, Spring Break, and Easter, we haven't had much time for honoring poetry in my classroom this month, but when we go back on Monday, it will be all poetry all the time. I'm going to be reading and writing poetry with all of my students, not just the creative writing students. One resource I'll be using is a book by poet Georgia Heard called For the Good of the Earth and the Sun. Heard is a poet who has worked in many schools, and her enthusiasm, energy, and zeal are admirable. Even though she works with much younger students than I do, I find many of her ideas translate to the high school classroom. I'll also be using her book The Revision Toolbox, and a book by Barry Lane, After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision. Another good resource is Poetry Everywhere by Jack Collum and Sheryl Noethe, from Teachers and Writers Collaborative. T&W has a newsletter and a great collection of books for writers and teachers of writing.
I don't know how many teachers are reading this, but do you write with your students? My creative writing students keep a writer's notebook, and we write for maybe 15-20 minutes (free writing and prompts) in our notebooks every day. That is in addition to whatever exercises or writing assignments we do in class. I write along with my students, and now my writer's notebook is satisfyingly fat. It has a nice expandable pocket at the back, and I've stuffed all sorts of notes, poems, clippings, etc. in there. I love a writer's notebook that is stuffed with words.
Here's a charming, slightly obsessive habit Georgia Heard writes about in For the Good of the Earth and the Sun: she pastes poems she loves all over her house where she will see them (next to the mirror, by the door so she'll see it on her way out, etc.). Heard also recommends pasting favorite poems in your notebook (I've always done this) and memorizing poems. Memorization is a challenge for me--I feel like my brain is already an over-stuffed file drawer. But I keep trying. I do have "The World is Too Much With Us" sort of memorized, and copies of it are in my notebook, on my bulletin board--everywhere.
Do you have a favorite poem you carry everywhere? Do you have an over-stuffed writer's notebook?
I think that I should write along with my students more. I teach freshman comp, so I tend to stick with essays, but I have them write a response to the essays they read for each class, and I've never done that. It would be a good habit to develop. Thanks for the idea!
Oh, and my favorite poem would have to be a tie between "Tonight I can write the saddest lines..." and "It was at that age that poetry arrived in search of me..." both by Pablo Neruda
@Cassandra-writing with my students really changes the tone of the room. And I love it. Thanks for the Neruda titles-love reading his poems out loud to students-then I get a Spanish speaker to read the Spanish version.
I don't have a writer's notebook, but what a great idea. Especially writing along with your students. When I was young, I would memorize my favorite poems, so I can recite a couple Robert Frost poems, The Jaberwocky, a few lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I love the idea of posting poetry around your house. Great post.
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