Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Poems Hide
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Slice of Life: Poems Hide


I am a stalker.   I have been stalking Mary Lee Hahn on Poetry Friday for some time now. I am not drawn to poetry. I do not know why. It feels a bit like why I am not drawn to yoga. I most likely need both in my life, but cannot connect to either. I have been reading, noticing, and wondering about poetry for two years now – every Friday.

I finally had the courage to tell Mary Lee that I have been stalking her when I saw her in February. She looked at me and simply asked, “Why?” I told her. “I am intrigued. I want to be a person who reads and writes poetry, but I can’t. The connection is just not there.” “Hmmmmm.” she replied.


Just Hmmmmm.


What do I do with Hmmmmm? What does Hmmmmm mean? Does she think I should try it?   Does she agree I am hopeless?


I am not sure what she meant, but her response catapulted me into poetry.  I read, I thought, I came up empty.


Then reality hit. I am facilitating an in-service on poetry this week. And it is poetry month. I know as teachers of writing we need to write. I encourage teachers to write. How can I be a teacher of teachers of writing and NOT write!   I had to give it a go.




What should I do? I tried the strategies in the Grade 2 Calkins Writng Unit on Poetry.


I tried objects…

I tried strong feelings…

I tried mentor texts….


Then it came together. I was watching a reading of Valentine for Ernest Mann by Naomi Shihab Nye –and it all came together – objects, strong feelings and Nye’s mentor text.


Tammy and I have been friends and colleagues for twenty-one years. Every March we go antiquing – or our version of it- for our birthdays. This is not fancy antiquing. We go to holes in the wall. We go to places that most would call “junk yards.” But we love it. It is our tradition. No matter what life brings each year, we find a way to spend a day treasure hunting together. This year our day of antiquing was last week. We added to our treasures and our memories. 

I came home and found out that poems do hide. Poems hide in objects and in our memories. Here is my poem:



My house

Mismatched furniture

Less than perfect trinkets

Chairs that wobble

Not meant to go together

To me

Picture perfect

To me




My house

A memory book

Of days together


Memories of

Shared wisdom






Some may see junk

I see treasures

My house

Our memories

Our life

A treasure


I learned an important lesson from Mary Lee. Sometimes the best conference is just listening and acknowledging. She gave me the space to find my poem. Her lack of tips or resources or advice was freeing. Mary Lee’s response allowed me to discover that poetry hides:

So I’ll tell you a secret instead:

poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,

they are sleeping. They are the shadows

drifting across our ceilings the moment

before we wake up. What we have to do

is live in a way that lets us find them.

(Poem for Ernest Mann, Nye)


I truly believe I will be a better teacher of writing poetry having struggled to write a poem. I will also be a better teacher of writing having been heard, simply heard, during a conference.


Hmmmmm – a powerful conferring response.




  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:02h, 07 April Reply

    Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all! I’m glad Mary Lee helped you “birth” your poem by giving you the space to write. Thank you for the glimpse into your birthday celebration and home!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:32h, 07 April Reply

      Indeed! Thank you for reading and responding!

  • Avatar
    Mary Lee Hahn
    Posted at 10:50h, 07 April Reply


    You learned some valuable lessons (some, perhaps, that you’ve attributed to me that I never even set out to teach, but whatever, we’ll go with it…), most notably, this:

    “poems do hide. Poems hide in objects and in our memories.”

    You needed time to lurk and watch, and then you needed some gentle pressure to just TRY it. (If leading a workshop is gentle pressure!)

    Your poem was right there all along, and now I can enjoy your eclectic house through your words, and look around my house and see how much we are alike!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:34h, 07 April Reply

      Thank you!! You did say “Hmmmm” It stayed with me. Who knows why? It could be that moment or the two years of stalking your poetry! You have been a secret mentor and I love that you found ways we are alike through my poem! I will continue to take time, lurk, watch and give it a go!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 11:16h, 07 April Reply

    So glad you tried poetry! Mary Lee is one of many treasures in our poetry world. I love these lines:
    “My house
    A memory book
    Of days together”
    So fun to have such an old, with so many shared memories,friend!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:36h, 07 April Reply

      She is a treasure and one I have used as a mentor. I also love her humor, so I am drawn to her writing and her voice. Thank you for your response and reading my first poem!

  • Avatar
    Irene Latham
    Posted at 11:18h, 07 April Reply

    I love Mary Lee’s “hmmm” and this poem was hiding IN YOU all the time! Beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:36h, 07 April Reply

      I guess it was hiding in me — love that idea — maybe there is another one in there!!
      Thank you

  • Avatar
    Posted at 12:24h, 07 April Reply

    What a perfect “slicing” poem!

    Love the look into your house and with Ramona on favorite lines:
    My house

    A memory book

    Of days together

    Poetry found
    From the struggle
    Poetry written
    From the heart!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:37h, 07 April Reply

      I didn’t really think of it as a “slicing” poem, but you are right! Maybe that is a good window into poetry for me — describing slices of life. Hmmmmm

  • Avatar
    Laura Purdie Salas
    Posted at 12:46h, 07 April Reply

    Brava for you and Mary Lee (and Naomi). THe theme at the Young Authors Conference I’ll be doing poetry at soon is Writer’s Block, and I’m going to share that Nye poem. Keep writing!

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:38h, 07 April Reply

      I love Nye’s poem! It really worked for me – I hope it works for your writers as well. Thank you for reading and responding.

  • Avatar
    Michelle Brezek (@BigTimeLiteracy)
    Posted at 13:50h, 07 April Reply

    Your poem is beautiful – and I’ve learned so much from this post – Nye’s poem, “Hmmm…” Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 18:39h, 07 April Reply

      Thank you – I appreciate your response. I love Nye in general, but that poem particularly speaks to me for some reason. I am glad you enjoyed it too.

  • Avatar
    Betsy Hubbard
    Posted at 18:41h, 07 April Reply

    Love your treasure of a poem. Good for you!

  • Avatar
    Mandy Robek
    Posted at 01:50h, 08 April Reply

    I heard about this post tonight at writing group and wanted to make sure I stopped by today. Mary Lee has a silent – simple response way about her to bring silence to a conversation which isn’t dead silence – it’s an extended amount of think time. Her style encourages with subtleness and thinking to allow others to initiate and try. I love your attempt and learning about your antiquing day. I bet you can find more poetry around your home from what I read today in Treasurers. Keep practicing what you preach and I love as an adult you went to a resource for younger children.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 02:12h, 08 April Reply

    Beautiful poem. Wonderful story. Smart advice.


  • Avatar
    Posted at 03:09h, 08 April Reply

    Your poem is “picture perfect,” Clare! I love the images you create of your treasures. And I agree, Mary Lee is such an inspiration. Looking forward to reading more of your poetry.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 09:03h, 09 April Reply

    I love “Treasures”! Beautiful and perfect.
    It captured how I feel about the things in our home. Thank you!

  • Slice of Life: “Slicing Poetry” | Assessment in Perspective
    Posted at 09:37h, 14 April Reply

    […] week I wrote my first poem!  Fran, a fellow slicer, […]

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