Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Poetry

Series: White People Homework: Poetry (18)

Poetry comes in our lives when we may be turned facing other needs: or we may seek it to soothe our souls. The abundance of poetry and beauty shared by BIPOC is vast and luminous. This post shares a fraction of places to find poets and poetry.

#TeachLivingPoets https://teachlivingpoets.com/

Poets.Org https://poets.org/

Poets.Org provides multiple resources for poets and poetry. It has lessons for teachers, and superb curated content.

I Can’t Breathe

Pamela Sneed

I suppose I should place them under separate files
Both died from different circumstances kind of, one from HIV AIDS and possibly not having
taken his medicines
the other from COVID-19 coupled with
complications from an underlying HIV status
In each case their deaths may have been preventable if one had taken his meds and the
hospital thought to treat the other
instead of sending him home saying, He wasn’t sick enough
he died a few days later
They were both mountains of men
dark black beautiful gay men
both more than six feet tall fierce and way ahead of their time
One’s drag persona was Wonder Woman and the other started a black fashion magazine
He also liked poetry
They both knew each other from the same club scene we all grew up in
When I was working the door at a club one frequented
He would always say to me haven’t they figured out you’re a star yet
And years ago bartending with the other when I complained about certain people and
treatment he said sounds like it’s time for you to clean house
Both I know were proud of me the poet star stayed true to my roots
I guess what stands out to me is that they both were
gay black mountains of men
Cut down
Felled too early
And it makes me think the biggest and blackest are almost always more vulnerable
My white friend speculates why the doctors sent one home
If he had enough antibodies
Did they not know his HIV status
She approaches it rationally
removed from race as if there were any rationale for sending him home
Still she credits the doctors for thinking it through
But I speculate they saw a big black man before them
Maybe they couldn’t imagine him weak
Maybe because of his size color class they imagined him strong
said he’s okay
Which happened to me so many times
Once when I’d been hospitalized at the same time as a white girl
she had pig-tails
we had the same thing but I saw how tenderly they treated her
Or knowing so many times in the medical system I would never have been treated so terribly if I
had had a man with me
Or if I were white and entitled enough to sue
Both deaths could have been prevented both were almost first to fall in this season of death
But it reminds me of what I said after Eric Garner a large black man was strangled to death over
some cigarettes
Six cops took him down
His famous lines were I can’t breathe
so if we are always the threat
To whom or where do we turn for protection?

The Academy of American Poets Announces Six New Poem-a-Day Guest Editors for Summer Series Centering Black Poets: https://poets.org/academy-american-poets-announces-six-new-poem-day-guest-editors-summer-series-centering-black-poets

PoetryFoundation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Posted in Discussion, Lesson Ideas, Literary Analysis, Poetry

Then and Now: what poets can teach us

I asked the question: was there a scholar who wrote about the 1918 pandemic with wisdom and guidance? I am ashamed that I looked in the wrong place, and should have been looking for a poet.

Kyrie by Ellen Bryant Voigt

From Blackbird Archive, read the curated content: https://blackbird.vcu.edu/v17n2/gallery/1918/intro_page.shtml

Soon it was a farmer in the field—

someone’s brother, someone’s father—

left the mule in its traces and went home.

Then the mason, the miller at his wheel,

from deep in the forest the hunter, the logger,

and the sun still up everywhere in the kingdom.

     ―Ellen Bryant Voigt, Kyrie

https://blackbird.vcu.edu/v17n2/gallery/1918/intro_page.shtml

It’s a hard thing to acknowledge, that the country’s current administration (executive branch) is killing us. This is not hyperbole. At every turn, the executive branch failed and exacerbated the crisis. We could be so much better. We could do so much better. My hope is hanging on by a thread. We need to fight this on so many fronts: the media must do better. We must rethink capitalism. We need to strengthen our communities and love for one another. I do not share Ms. O’Meara’s optimism at this writing, but you might:

In the Time of Pandemic

And the people stayed home.

And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. 

Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

—Kitty O’Meara

Other resources and readings:

“Invisible Bullets”

9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen

Posted in Poetry, Writing

What I Show to the World

Sometimes the inspiration our students need is right there, in real time.

Sherri Spelnic @edifiedlistener is a wonderful writer and educator, and her poem is beautiful. On Tuesday, I shared it with students and my own shameful experience from several years ago, around 2009. There was a strict rule, and I mean STRICT – no hats, scarves, bandanas, even headbands. We teachers were in charge of policing the hallways for any hoodie, hat, cap, beanie, toque, etc. Hijabs, of course, were fine. I say “of course” but I am certain in some American schools they are misunderstood and targeted. One young Black girl came to class a few days in a row with a red bandana. I told her that the school rule was that type of head covering was against dress code. After three days of her wearing it, I called for support from the office. One of the best admins I’ve ever had, Lavonta Howard, who was an AP at the time, quietly told me to let it go, because her mother had cut her hair in an alcoholic rage, and the relationship between hair and a Black girl is unique. I don’t remember his exact words, but I got it immediately. I was angry at her mother for the pain she caused her daughter, angry at the ridiculous “rules” that put me in a position not to be compassionate, and mostly at myself for not understanding what was at stake. The psychology of cruel authority took over my better judgment, and from that day forward I never let a ‘rule’ interfere with my humanity or deny others the dignity of theirs. I am forever grateful for Lavonta to provide me with grade and understanding.

When I shared that with my current students, they also offered me grace. We walked through our own process of thinking about our physical selves:

  • Hair/face
  • Clothes
  • Weight/height

I modeled that I would take about some things, but didn’t feel like I wanted to talk about my weight. I took that risk and tried to show vulnerability, that we don’t always want to share what we think about ourselves. We don’t want to be mocked.

This process didn’t work for every child in the room — but it allowed a place for many. And for those who shared, and those who didn’t, we all came to a better place of empathy. Some people often make fun of teenagers and selfies, but I get it. I loved self-portraits and looked at myself in the mirror, more than I’d like to admit, as if I would see my identity form and shape in front of my eyes. In a way it did.

From one of my students from Tanzania: “My mom used to say I was a King.”

Thank you to Ms. Spelnic, for your grace. My students needed this–right words, right time.

Posted in Poetry, Writing

poetry month

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/video/142394/we-real-cool

https://eveewing.com/

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/video/77400/snake

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_ZOkJg7G0qh3rz1lYp_dCjvlmp0KMTJI/view

https://blog.ted.com/10-spoken-word-performances-folded-like-lyrical-origami/

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/top-50-spoken-word-poems?sec=pop24&utm_expid=.53hHQ_sIS_GVYl9TPM4psw.1&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

30 ways to celebrate national poetry month

  1. Request a free copy of the National Poetry Month poster until mid-April; posters can be purchased for $5.00 each in our Poets shop thereafter (while supplies list).
  2. Sign up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning.
  3. Sign up for Teach This Poem, a weekly series for teachers.
  4. Memorize a poem.
  5. Create an anthology of your favorite poems on Poets.org.
  6. Encourage a young person to participate in the Dear Poet project.
  7. Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.
  8. Review these concrete examples of how poetry matters in the United States today.
  9. Learn more about poets and poetry events in your state.
  10. Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.
  11. Attend a poetry reading at a local university, bookstore, cafe, or library.
  12. Read a poem at an open mic. It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local poetry writing community.
  13. Start a poetry reading group.
  14. Write an exquisite corpse poem with friends.
  15. Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.
  16. Deepen your daily experience by reading Edward Hirsch’s essay “How to Read a Poem.”
  17. Ask the United States Post Office to issue more stamps celebrating poets.
  18. Recreate a poet’s favorite food or drink by following his or her recipe.
  19. Read about different poetic forms.
  20. Read about poems titled “poem.”
  21. Watch a poetry movie.
  22. Subscribe to American Poets magazine or a small press poetry journal.
  23. Watch Rachel Eliza Griffiths’s P.O.P (Poets on Poetry) videos.
  24. Watch or read Carolyn Forche’s talk “Not Persuasion, But Transport: The Poetry of Witness.”
  25. Read or listen to Mark Doty’s talk “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now.”
  26. Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day today! The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with coworkers, family, and friends.
  27. Read Allen Ginsberg’s classic essay about Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
  28. Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.
  29. Get ready for Mother’s Day by making a card featuring a line of poetry.
  30. Read the first chapter of Muriel Rukeyer’s inspiring book The Life of Poetry.

 

Think I’ll try #s2, 14, and 21.

And, I’m going to use these graphics for a display case (photos to come):

Poetry Month

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, Poetry, Reading, Technology

Moving through summer…

I wish I could say this post is urgent, but alas, I know the truth: I’m avoiding ‘real’ summer work– the projects and ideas that are supposed to rejuvenate me and get back in touch with my ‘real’ self. So here’s a deal: I’ll write this post, and then go do something. Maybe take the dog for a walk. Maybe organize my jewelry box. Or go find some Pokemon. Who knows? The world is wide open. And gotta catch ’em all.

When the school year starts again, it’s closed, boxed, a hedge maze of navigating rules and schedules. And consistently over the years I’ve tried to shape and refine my teaching practices. Sometimes those practices come at the will of administration and changing district policies, but all in all, I know those are in alignment with my personal teaching values more than ever, and truth be told I am feeling a great confidence of agency. As long as I can honestly say what I’m doing is in the best interest of students as my litmus test, then every decision holds integrity and intention.

The “A” Word

One such is the notion that teachers grade everything. We’ve gotten in this feedback loop of complaining about when students aren’t motivated, even for grades, and then use too many sticks and run out of carrots. In this post about accountability, I should have said ‘punitive’ — but was trying to be too soft-edged, I suppose. I am really starting to dislike the word ‘accountable,’ and I know that bias is all mine. Accountability is an accountant, a bean-counter, a points-shiny-stars-gamificationated-hoop-jumping word. Please– any other word but ‘accountable.’ If, in my book club, the other ladies said, “we are going to hold you accountable for reading all the books” I’d be so out of there my wine glass would shatter from the squealing of tires. We read each other’s book choices because we get to discuss things with those of various points of view. And there are snacks.

The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That's what we teachers do -- talk about it!
The conversation became a bit derailed, but no matter. That’s what we teachers do — talk about it!

The question became side-tracked, naturally. And that’s fine. Let me see if I can get this back on point: the 40 book challenge is meant to create readers. There are multiple ways for students to share what they’ve read.

The post I linked above says many things, but mainly this:

An unfamiliar parent emailed me to complain. She tracked me down on the Internet after asking her son’s teacher about the “outrageous requirement” that students read 40 books and complete 40 book reports this school year. Her son’s teacher said the assignment was based on my work, and this upset mom wanted me to know that I was hurting her son. I responded that while I expect my students to read 40 books, I don’t tie any assignments or grades to this expectation.

Consider this: when doing something like a 40-book challenge, weave in the next two concepts about technology and grading policies. Consider carefully what the goal is. It takes students some getting used to doing something because it’s amazing. Maybe I can do a mash-up between books and Pokemon? Wait, what am I saying?!

Technology:

If you want to know exactly how to best use technology for any student, underserved or not, read this article by Molly B. Zielezinski @mollybullock. What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us About Technology in the Hands of Underserved StudentsThe article provides clear constructs for how to use technology in the classroom. 

Grading Policies

Hope. It’s all about hope. 

Do No Harm: Flexible and Smart Grading Policies by Andrew Miller. Our new admin had their plates full last year; I wonder if a discussion about grading policies will hit the meetings this year? I hope so. As a staff, learning new ways to grade and assess effectively and meaningfully would sure go a long way to help our students we serve. I had a great conservation about grading policies in Twitter at #edchat the other day. It’s on everyone’s minds, and something that the current grading software programs we use don’t provide much in terms of true reflection of growth or stagnation, for that matter. I am going to integrate Miller’s ideas in with my syllabus for this year, along with some of the grading policies and explanations for parents.

Tardy Slips

This is one of those issues I didn’t think was a big deal until I encountered an interpretation I had never considered before. If a student is talking to another teacher, and receives a late pass, but another teacher still marks them down tardy as his/her only means of showing that the student missed instruction, what is the point of this? If a teacher’s class runs over a few minutes, and then asks that those students are not marked tardy, why wouldn’t people honor that? Perhaps, like the word accountable, there needs to be different shades of meaning: if a student is clearly hanging out in the bathroom avoiding class, then yes, tardy. But for those times where students need to confer with a teacher for a few minutes, but another teacher needs to show that they missed the entry task, perhaps a ‘conference’ demarkation would be a good idea? That way they’re not punished or disciplined in any way, and it shows that the student was attempting to get clarification on something, and allows for flexibility for the entire staff.

Rethinking Everything

Many teachers are going to have a hard time with some of the new Washington State guidelines regarding discipline and suspensions. 

Good.

If we truly want this school-to-prison pipeline to be shut down, it’s time.

And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.
And now to go read more Nikki Giovanni poetry.

Well, I made a deal. This post is done. Time to honor summer again. I felt as if I haven’t gotten anything done, or accomplished, but that’s not true. I made this, and others are going to share it. I hope you will, too.

 

Posted in Poetry

WIHWT: Instructions (oh, I really, really do wish I had written this…)

Instructions

by Neil Gaiman

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never

saw before.

Say “please” before you open the latch,

go through,

walk down the path.

A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted

front door,

as a knocker,

do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.

Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat

nothing.

However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the

wild wood.

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter’s

realm;

there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here,

you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.
Once through the garden you will be in the

wood.

The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-

growth.

Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She

may ask for something;

give it to her. She

will point the way to the castle.

Inside it are three princesses.

Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.

In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve

months sit about a fire,

warming their feet, exchanging tales.

They may do favors for you, if you are polite.

You may pick strawberries in December’s frost.

Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where

you are going.

The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-

man will take you.

(The answer to his question is this:

If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to

leave the boat.

Only tell him this from a safe distance.)
If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.

Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that

witches are often betrayed by their appetites;

dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;

hearts can be well-hidden,

and you betray them with your tongue.
Do not be jealous of your sister.

Know that diamonds and roses

are as uncomfortable when they tumble from

one’s lips as toads and frogs:

colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Remember your name.

Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.

Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped

to help you in their turn.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart, and trust your story.

When you come back, return the way you came.

Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.

Do not forget your manners.

Do not look back.

Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).

Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).

Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).
There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is

why it will not stand.
When you reach the little house, the place your

journey started,

you will recognize it, although it will seem

much smaller than you remember.

Walk up the path, and through the garden gate

you never saw before but once.

And then go home. Or make a home.

And rest.

http://www.endicott-studio.com/cofhs/cofinstr.html

Posted in New News, Poetry

The Laughing Heart

The Laughing Heart (Charles Bukowski)

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

@Charles Bukowski

Posted in Poetry

Friendship.

060705-mouse-frog_big

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Nobody! Who Are you?

 

 

I’m Nobody! Who are you? 

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us?

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson