07 Apr 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.
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:
Less than perfect trinkets
Chairs that wobble
Not meant to go together
A memory book
Of days together
Some may see junk
I see treasures
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.