I have a little collection of things to share today on this first Poetry Friday in February, three pieces I read this week that helped me deal with the world as it is.
First of all, here's a poem written this week called "Odysseus at O'Hare." Odysseus compares the hospitality he received among people who fear the gods in ancient times with the welcome he's getting at the airport in Chicago in 2017.
On Thursday I finished the verse novel I was reading with my seventh graders, Inside Out and Back Again. This is the story of Hà and her family, living in Saigon in 1975, as the Viet Cong move closer and closer to the city. Eventually the family is forced to flee, and even at the end of their harrowing journey, when they wind up in Alabama, things aren't easy for them. Hà says at one point:
"No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama."
I have been using this book with my seventh graders for several years now, and certainly couldn't have anticipated that refugees would fill the news this year as we read it. It provided a great springboard for discussion of what refugees go through at every stage of their odyssey. Hà, at ten, is younger than most of the protagonists of books my kids enjoy, and the novel could definitely be used with younger students than mine. To me, the most poignant scene in the book is the one where Hà's teacher, in a well-meaning effort to inform the other kids about Vietnam, shows the class war photos. Hà, instead of appreciating the teacher's gesture, is angry and sad that her beloved country has been represented as a place of only war and suffering. Some of my students could relate to this, remembering going to the US after the earthquake, and having their classmates know nothing about their country except for the destruction they were seeing on the news.
Lastly, I want to share "God's Grandeur," a poem which a friend left as a comment on my Facebook page this week. It's filled with the hope I need, because I believe that God's grandeur is also part of the world as it is.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast with ah! bright wings!
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