When February rolls around, teachers feel the pressures of the days. And, such a short month we're given to squeeze it all in. I often wonder what our students think. This poem came from those wonders. February Confusion It’s Black History month my teachers say Ground hog’s day I love to read Love and hearts and Random acts of kindness and a day to celebrate our presidents Also, the biggest football game of the year But, I’m so confused. My teacher also said that one day not so long ago Blacks were not allowed to read and presidents owned slaves And, I found on the internet the groundhog is right less than half the time. My teacher also taught us about racism and stereotypes and said how far we’ve come. . . but I saw white Chief fans dressed up as Native Americans painting their faces red beating on drums Chanting and singing and the Tomahawk chop. . . Be kind I keep hearing Make it random We write letters and give cards with hearts to our friends This makes us all feel good inside the walls of our classroom I don’t know how to wrap up this poem Something is missing and I’m not sure what it is But things are not all what they say it is ©Shari Lynn Daniels 2021 (draft) I'm participating in Poetry Friday where others who are sharing and writing poetry come to gather. You can find more poems to read this week here at the site of Molly Hogan, who is hosting Poetry Friday this week.
It’s all I have to bring today
This, and my heart beside
This, and my heart, and all the fields
And all the meadows wide
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the clover dwell.
~Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)
This weary soul of mine succumbed to social media early in the morning, as some days, scrolling is all I can muster. My hand, even too exhausted to lift the pen to my notebook page.
On this particular day, a teacher-writer-soul friend, Mary Lee Haun, was also having a weary kind of day. Her #poemofpresence whispered to the quiet corners of my dissonance:
today I am sad
please don’t try to cheer me up
there’s nothing for it
My fingers typed a few words to let her know that I felt her angst as well. I shared with her a word I’d recently learned, one that named this kind of tired – a word in Tibetan: ye tang che. The ye part means “totally, completely”, and the rest of it means “exhausted”. Altogether, ye tang che means “totally exhausted”.
Devendra Banhart taught me this word, while listening to him on a recent episode of the On Being podcast. The lovely language and voices of this podcast are healing, so I turn here often in times of need. The word, ye tang che, Devendra credits to have learned from Pema Chadron in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
I had jotted it into my notebook to bring up in moments of despair. Like this.
A lovely dear friend of us both, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, swept in to save us on this dreary day. My heart sang just seeing her name and an image of her responding to our short conversation.
She offered a gift: a recommendation of a book.
The Wild Remedy ~ How Nature Mends Us by Emma Mitchell.
With a slight surge of new energy, a quick exploration brought me to the contents of Emma’s book. Emma suffers of “the grey slug” or depression, as some know it as. She shares her journey through nature as a balm to lift the grey from her days. Winding paths through the woods, drawing and painting the discoveries along her way fill her illustrated diaries. Month by month, she charts her highs and lows and the neuroscience of how our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts receive the natural healing benefits of plants and wildlife when we step into the wild.
Her book arrived on my doorstep yesterday.
All of a sudden, I’m witnessing more bees, and fields and meadows wide.
~ from my morning walk ~
And . . . my heart is beginning to mend from all of this ye tang che.
As I pulled on the right leg of my black leggings this morning, around 6:00 am, leaning back in my chair, both feet lifting high into the air, as if gravity was going to lure these things on, the words of a childhood poem washed over me.
“Monday’s child is full of grace,” it whispered, as poems sometimes do.
Even though I know not the exact words of this nostalgic nursery rhyme, parts of it are lodged deep within me somewhere, and I thought,
“Wait, I don’t think Monday’s child is full of grace. It’s Tuesday’s child!”
But I’m telling you, Monday’s child needs it.
The words swirled and played in the dance of a new poem being born as I reached for my “Monday” dress, a free flowing knit, waist free, forgiving, stretchy, throw in the dryer, no-need-to-iron kind of dress. It wears on me whether I am a size 4 or a size 14. I hoover somewhere in between, depending on the day, the month, the season or the year.
Still – this dress embraces me and says, “It’s okay, I’m here for you, Shari.”
Topped off with my favorite black vest and knee high boots, Monday arrives in the comfort of my Friday jeans, even after a weekend of pizza, too many cookies and a little (okay, a lot) of laying around.
Gosh, I love a dress that can do that to a Monday.
Oh, the poem. It’s been marinating all morning. Here’s what I’ve got so far. . .
Monday’s dress is full of grace,
A thank you melts across her face,
None is there of shameful woes, or
Regrets of weekend diet foes.
With the stretch of lycra, loving and giving
Enabling her to go on with her living
A life that is so good and gay
A gift to savor on the morn of Monday.
Gosh – writing that just made me so happy! Poetry can do that, you know.
I don’t know what this post is about. It’s a ramble and I apologize upfront.
I’ve been having trouble lately putting words to the images, thoughts and feelings I experience. It’s not that I can’t recall them, it’s just that I’m struggling for the right fit – the perfect description. Maybe I’m just exhausted. Well, it halts me in my tracks. I get frustrated and end up writing clichés or simple phrases just to hold on to the moment.
Last Friday was the most beautiful September day. As I walked from my car to the school door, carrying my bags and coffee in hand, I caught sight of the horizon. Fog blanketed the playground and a layer of dark clouds rested along this horizon. Just at the crust of these clouds, light beamed. The sun, not showing itself yet, was announcing it’s arrival. The entire sky was glowing with rays of light. I stopped for a moment to take in its beauty. It filled me. I had no words.
At lunch, as I walked to the mailbox, I heard honking above. As I craned my neck to the sky, hundreds of geese flapped their wings in the most magnificent V of geese I have ever seen – all heading south.
Again. I stopped to take in the awe.
A boring description – again, I apologize.
As I reached for a poetry book off my shelf this morning, John O’ Donohue, one of my favorite poets and also an Irish teacher, jumped into my hands.
Here was his first poem:
Somewhere, out at the edges, the night Is turning and the waves of darkness Begin to brighten the shore of dawn The heavy dark falls back to earth And the freed air goes wild with light, The heart fills with fresh, bright breath And thoughts stir to give birth to color.
Oh my heavens.
The words I had been clamoring for.
I printed it off and pasted it to my September Birthday Poems collection.
John O’ Donohue understands poetry. He put words on the page to paint the description of my experience.
For this, I am grateful.
Each day, we have moments of awe. It’s difficult to describe their significance and maybe we don’t have to. We can just feel them. But, sometimes, I want to put it in writing.
John O’Donohue describes it as such:
There is a quiet light that shines in every heart. It draws no attention to itself, thought it is always secretly there. It is what illuminates our minds to see beauty, our desire to seek possibility, and our hearts to love life. Without this subtle quickening, our days would be empty and wearisome, and no horizon would ever awaken our longing. Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life. We enter the world as strangers who all at once become heirs to a harvest of memory, spirit, and dream that has long preceded us and will no enfold, nourish, and sustain us. The gift of the world is our first blessing.
There are days when it seems these quiet gifts of the world come pouring in. There are other days where it feels like God forgot that I’m still here. Perhaps other people need more, on those days, and He thinks I’ll be fine. But really, it’s the days that I am so consumed with the pace of life that I am blind to what is in front of me.
Slow down, I hear.
The moments are there.
And the words will appear.
There is something about a poem that reaches into your soul and grabs you there. A poem can speak loudly in so few words causing you to pause for a moment to say the words over in a hope that they might land in your memory for you to retrieve at a later time.
Maybe that’s why I love them so much.
When life moves into auto pilot, I neglect poetry. But, somehow, it always seems to find it’s way back to me. We are like old friends – so grateful to have crossed paths again and we reminisce for a spell.
September is my birthday month. I enjoy giving myself small birthday gifts during the entire month of September. These gifts do not usually cost anything; a walk along the river, a drive to the library or finding a small space amongst the trees in my backyard to write. The best gifts are free.
This month, I’m giving myself the gift of poems. A poem a day.
Some poems are from my poetry books, some I write.
Today’s poem found me.
Garrison Keillor, at his website, The Writer’s Almanac, posts a poem a day, along with other literary and historical notes about the current day in history. It’s a lovely site.
Today’s featured poem was written by Kate Barnes. Kate’s words could be my own words as I reflect on my birthday, time and getting older. I’m only 51 years old, but I appreciate poetry that celebrates getting older. We need to look forward to what many are not able to.
Here is her poem.
And my gift to myself today.
When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.
“Future Plans” by Kate Barnes from Where the Deer Were. © David R. Godine, 1994. Reprinted with permission.
There are a few things I hope my third graders always remember when they leave my classroom in June. First, that reading, writing, poetry and art can bring you great happiness. Second, that learning is hard – and it should be or you’ll never make your brain grow. And, third, that you create your own reality. (And, that I loved them dearly.)
Attitude is such an important part of life. What we think is what we will most likely see. My kids have heard me say it so many times, I now am hearing them parrot it to me when I need my own attitude shift.
Rainy Mondays are perfect for examining your attitudes.
I shared the following poems with my third graders today. We talked about what we noticed, felt, and what the author might want us to think. Then, we compared and contrasted. I asked my kids which poem was them today. The hands were split-half and half.
More teaching about how our minds work happened. We talked about how if we expect to have a bad day, we probably will, because our minds are prepped to notice all the bad things that happen, bypassing any goodness that comes our way. After our conversation, I took another show of hands to see if anyone changed their minds about which poem they want to guide them today. Of course, many switched teams over to the Happy Monday side.
Why would anyone WANT to create a their own gloomy day?
Happy Monday By Joy Acey
Lying in bed just after dawn the sleep of night is suddenly gone. I'm listening to doves cooing away as I lie here and think of the coming day. Monday is the start of this new week. There's lots to do and lots to seek. I'm making my list of things to get done. I'm counting blessings for lots of fun. I hope whatever you have to do this will be a great week for you.
I was happy this morning, as I woke up in bed,
Then realized it was Monday and I faced the day with dread,
For somehow, whatever comes my way, my temper is displayed,
Just mentioning ‘it’s Monday’, my nerves, they become frayed.
The day will be just a ‘ write off’, it’s no good me trying to do
Any sort of reasonable job, things won’t go right. It’s true!
It’s like a ‘cloud’ which hangs around and never let’s you be,
Whatever I attempt to do, disaster follows me.
If I could sleep through Mondays, then that would be just bliss!
Then Mondays wouldn’t have happened, I’d have given them a miss!
© Ernestine Northover
Fifty 8 and 9 year olds squished into my classroom this afternoon. A neighboring teacher home with a sick child and being short of subs, we take turns inviting extra children into our own classrooms for portions of the day.
“What are you going to do with them all?” my teacher friend asks.
“Poetry,” I reply, “We are going to write poems.”
She gave me a look. You know the one.
I gathered them all and told them that I saw Poetry on my way to school this morning.
They looked befuddled – like Poetry wore clothes or walked around.
“I heard it first, as I stepped out of my car, singing in tweets so happily. Because is was morning, I’m sure. I looked to where the poetry was coming from and then I spotted them, in trees. Hundreds of them. Flocks.”
“I saw them, too, Mrs. Daniels!” they beamed. “The robins are out!”
“I stood under the tree for a moment, holding my bags and my coffee mug. I felt called to take in the poetry – the singing of joyful the morning, the red ripe berries hanging on to the branches patiently waiting for these robins to come to enjoy them, the robins with their bellies overstuffed with either babies. . . or berries. How was I to know?
A poem was shouting at me.
I skipped inside, whipped off my coat, sat down my coffee mug and scrambled for my notebook. When a poem arrives, it is the poets responsibility to get it down onto paper quickly, before it leaves and finds someone else.”
I quickly wrote my Fat Robins poem for them on the chart paper.
There you all sit
Singing joyful tunes
on berry tree
Are there babies in there?
Or do you all
to lay off
on the berries!
They giggled – those third graders.
I told them how poetry finds me and then I have to write it down and how I love to write poetry more than any other kind of writing because. . . .
Poetry breaks the rules. Free verse, that is. My poetry form of choice.
After I shared the rules that you can break with poetry (complete sentences, punctuation, capital letters, paragraph form), I set up objects around he room and we wrote small poems. Rocks, a toddler mitten, monopoly houses, a deck of cards, any item I could find in my house in a 2 minute search for stuff. I showed them how an object can trigger a thought and as a poet, you have to pay attention to that very first thought that pops into your head and grab it by the tail and put it down on paper. A poet can’t sit around and think too long or the thoughts go away to someone else. Poet’s get stuff down. They don’t think stuff up.
Away they went, eager to be poets. I gave them only three minutes per object and said to write fast, keep your pencil moving and get down your first thoughts.
Always, I am in awe of what children can do. All I did was model my own poem and get them excited. I didn’t hover over their shoulders telling them to add line breaks and rhymes or to start here or skip spaces.
This happened on its own.
If these are our quick three minute drafts, I can only imagine where we can go with poetry.
But for now, we will joyfully write. . .
content with the freedom
of free verse.
The Unchosen Poems
They sit and wait
hidden in books
some still scatter words
not yet crafted
to even live
as a poem yet.
to be chosen.
waving their arms
I have something to say!
The children. . .
they need to know me!
But, oh. . .
I squint my eyes
and shake my head
and those rhymes?
no. . . I can’t even.
I don’t want the children
to believe that
have to rhyme
you are fun
but. . . no.
she chooses her pets
A Snowy Evening
What do they have
that we don’t?
It’s so unfair.
I like to believe that poems choose me and I don’t not choose them. But, after this poem made it’s way out of my pen this morning, I realized that yes, I do have my favorites. They are chosen over and over to teach whatever I might need to teach that day. My class pets that I pick on the most are my memorized poems. They sit at the ready until I call them up for their duty. I’m sure the unchosen poems think they are spoiled.
The neglected poems were screaming at me this morning, begging for attention. “You are so lazy”, they cried. “Give the children something new!”
When the truth speaks, it hurts.
I do rely on these chosen poems and yes, perhaps they do need a rest.
And, those rhyming poems?
Personally, it was those bloody rhymes that damaged my own beliefs about what poetry really is. In my classroom, I encourage students NOT to rhyme because immediately they are all trying to force feed these words into their poems just to make a rhyme. Poems fall apart. The rhymes take away the heart and meaning of what they are truly trying to say. If a child is composing a poem about her dog dying, the last thing she should be thinking about is, “What rhymes with dead?”
Action Plan: Branch out beyond what I already know and believe. Use a poem I don’t connect with personally. Perhaps it is meant for a child in my room and not me.
Play with rhymes, but not too soon.
And, for Pete’s sake, memorize some new poems. Those Wild Geese and Snowy Evenings need a rest.
I’m participating in the 2016 NaPoWritMo (National Poetry Write Month) and hoping to blog about poetry for 30 days in April. Please join me and others by visiting their site!
A Dog’s Sigh
I could read a dog’s mind
when it sighs so heavy.
Is it bored
wishing that it
could be outside
and playing tag
with dog friends?
Perhaps the sigh
a sign that
it just wants
best of all . .
an inner peace
that it belongs
to this family
I didn’t always love poetry.
Honestly, I can’t say that like even described my feelings toward it through most of my years as a student. Between the analyzing, confusion, rhyming, and assignments to produce haikus, sonnets, quatrains and filling in templates for acrostic poems , what’s not to like, right?
Ugh. . .
Poetry used to bring fear to my already befuddled mind. Fear that I would not know what in the heck a poem was supposed to mean, fear that I was alone in this fear of being the only idiot that would not understand what the secret messages that poets were trying to tell us.
By the way, did you know there actually is a word that defines the fear of poetry? It’s called metrophobia.
I do not make this stuff up.
A shift occurred in my late thirties when I was trained as a Literacy Collaborative coach at Ohio State University. The introduction to Georgia Heard, Ralph Fletcher, Mary Oliver and Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge changed my entire vision of what poetry truthfully was. I learned that a poem can speak to me in whatever way I want it to. We savored a line, or even a word and asked ourselves, “What does that say to you?” or “How did they do that?” I learned that before anything, a poem has to tug at your heart. You have to feel it. I learned that a poem does not necessarily harbor secrets that only the sophisticated- intellectual-well-educated-literary-geniuses can decode.
And, I also discovered, first hand, that when that first poem shakes you to your core, you are hooked on poetry for life.
It was also revealed to me that anyone could write poetry and it certainly did not need to follow a structure, especially a rhyming one. Oh, how I despised having to restrict my words to a poetry form when those thoughts just didn’t want to fit into any poetry form.
I came to adore free verse and in writing simply. No polysyllabic fluffery for me. If I desired to say the cat slept. That’s what I’ll said.
I found freedom in free verse.
Although poetry lives in my heart and in my classroom all year round, April is a paramount month for celebrating poetry more than any other month of the year. April stirs my poetry senses, new notebooks need to be purchased for filling with poems, fancy new pens show up, and most certainly. . . a few new poetry books find their way to my shelves.
This month, coming down from the rush of the 2016 Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers, I feel a tug to keep blogging onward. What better than to take up a new challenge to write about anything poetry.
I may just a write a simple poem, like one about my dog, Sandy, and her heavy sighs. Or, perhaps I’ll share an attempted lesson with my third graders. I certainly will brag about the inspirational poetry teachers who have walked before me. Or, I could just take pictures of the poetry in our lives.
Whatever it will be, I’m on poetry alert.
Prepare to be swaddled in words of poetry this month.