I never call myself a poet, but I am in love with words.
I wrote this beside a poem in my notebook one day (I wish I could remember the poem):
Poetry is spiritual. Shouldn’t it be? It’s language laced in love and longing; purpose — and yes, peace. Sometimes. It’s also anger, anguish, sorrow, and despair. Poetry is people trying to find a place. It’s help in healing. It’s the tangle and torment of humanity shouting up and calling out. “Speak your truth.” the voices say. I’ll just play with speaking mine in verse.
Is that a poem? If I called myself a poet, I’d probably say yes. But I don’t, so I won’t.
I am like the kid too afraid to write. Too afraid to be wrong.
Can a poem be wrong?
I remember a several years ago when I first began teaching. I questioned myself a lot back then, and I had a knee-knocking fear of teaching poetry. Thinking to give myself an edge, I picked up the poetry binder the teacher before me had used. It screamed Keats and the Romantics. (Please don’t jump all over me if you revel in this era.) I’m sure the binder had other poets and other poems. I just remember how wrong it felt — how wrong I felt — trying to teach poems I didn’t love in a way my students and I didn’t love. We analyzed and analyzed. Never wrote beside a single one. I fear I passed the baton, my fear and even dislike of poetry, to my students.
That was wrong.
Thankfully, I learned to run toward the pain. I got better at teaching young people instead of teaching poetry. I learned to do more than have my students bring in their favorite song lyrics. I bought novels in verse and poetry anthologies. I read for pleasure. I wrote to discover, to wonder, to enjoy. I learned to love poets who made me think and feel and to experience language like I never had before. I shared all of this with my students.
It took me years to overcome my fear of poetry. How silly and how sad.
So maybe you are like the old me — stuck in a rut or an old binder. Maybe you dread all the talk of poetry in April because you’re stressed about test prep or whatever. Maybe you just want a little spring in your step. That’s what I now think poetry is — a pretty powerful spring.
Whether you love poetry, or not, here’s a little inspiration to get your bounce on:
- Join Sarah Donovan and take a chance on yourself as a poet. 30 Days of Verse: Sign-Up to Write a Poem a Day with Ethical ELA this April #verselove2019
- Read Laurie Halse Anderson’s newest book Shout and dog-ear passages for craft lessons to help your writers. Or not, just read it!
- Follow #TeachLivingPoets on Twitter and get more ideas than you’ll probably know what to do with in a decade. There’s a chat tonight discussing Phil Kaye’s poem “My Grandmother’s Ballroom.” (I attended a session at NCTE by the educators who host this chat. They are inspiring. Build your PLN.)
- Register to attend the Conference on Poetry and Teaching at the Frost Place in Franconia, NH this summer. (I attended in 2014 — easily the most inspiring PD I’ve ever participated. I wrote a bit about it here.)
- Sign-up for #NCTEVerse and get free resources, curated by NCTE members, for use during National Poetry Month — or whenever!
- Get You are No Longer in Trouble by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell and take Penny’s challenge to write next to it. (I just ordered!)
Sometimes it’s fun to look up words we already know. Today I looked up poet.
Don’t you just love the second definition? I’m thinking superhero with a pen.
Amy Rasmussen began writing love poems in 6th grade about her boyfriend Frankie, but somewhere along the way of life, she lost her love of poetry. She’s since read Good Poems and all the poetry of Billy Collins. Aimless Love is her favorite. She’s always on the lookout for new poems to write beside. This is a new favorite. She’s not sure why. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass