Friday, February 03, 2017

Poetry Friday: Refugees and Bright Wings

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.

God's Grandeur
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!

The roundup is here today.


SW said...

Lovely post. Loved all the poems!

Brenda Harsham said...

Your verse novel sounds very timely and moving. I will look for it. That is a wonderful poem by GMH.

Kay said...

Inside Out and Back Again is such a powerful book. Have you read Katherine Applegate's Home of the Brave? It explores similar themes (and is written in verse) with a young boy who is a refugee from Africa.

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

The novel sounds compelling.
Thanks for sharing the hope in God's Grandeur.

Linda B said...

I've used Inside Out & Back Again also with students, but years ago when it first appeared and we had fewer connections as we do today. The poems are lovely, Ruth, thanks very much for sharing deep feelings today.

Tara Smith said...

Odysseus at O'Hare just slayed me - we are certainly in need of kinder gods these days.

jama said...

I'm a Hopkins fan so enjoyed seeing his poem here today, Ruth. I've been meaning to read Inside Out and Back Again for a long time. Thanks for the reminder! :)

tanita✿davis said...

What an interesting position you must be in at present, an American teaching international students and discussing with them... our current situation. May you continually find the right words and the right books.

Jane @ Raincity Librarian said...

I adored Inside Out and Back Again, it just break my heart, and sparked my passion for verse novels.

Doraine Bennett said...

Lovely, Ruth. I have always loved Hopkins' poem, especially those last lines.

Sally Murphy said...

Great post. I haven't read this verse novel abut it's now on my list to read. And I love Hopis' words, especially: "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things"

Mary Lee said...

"And for all this, nature is never spent;" -- gorgeous sunset here last night.

The part about "the single story" that is told about Vietnam in the book and Haiti in your students' real life resonates with me. I need to be more careful about the books I choose for Black History Month so they don't all showcase the struggle.

anna j said...

I'm also an intl school teacher, and librarian, in Ghana . Finding your blog via the "what's saving my life right now" links, I was shocked to find you featuring the G.M. Hopkins poem that is the signature for my emails...thanks for sharing excellent reads for poetic souls :-)