Friday, May 31, 2013

Poetry Friday: Sixteen

I locked my classroom this afternoon and headed home.  It's summer.  That means many things, but the first thing it means is my daughter's birthday, in a couple of days.  I wrote this poem for her.


She was born during Finals Week
And as I labored, her dad typed an exam.
The students later said it was the easiest he'd ever given.

This year Finals Week ended just before her birthday
And she checks her grades obsessively online,
Dissatisfied by all the numbers she discovers.
Only a hundred is good enough for her.

There's a photo of her in her dad's arms in the hospital
Hours after she was born.
Next to him a pile of papers sits ready to be graded,
Assessed, evaluated,
But his focus is on her
And he judges her to be perfect.

Listen to me, daughter,
Intense and fragile since the moment I first held you,
No letter or number will ever sum up your worth.

Ruth, from

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seventh Grade Gifts

Tuesday was the last day with students, then Wednesday we had our eighth grade promotion. Today I have been cleaning up in my classroom and I'm planning to finish that tomorrow, attend our last faculty meeting, and then start the summer. On Tuesday I got two precious gifts from seventh graders, and I think they pretty much sum up the year and the age group.

First, I received a lovely frog's leg, straight from the scene of the seventh grade dissection planned by their teacher on the last day of school. I smiled sweetly, said thank you, and took it, which I think sorely disappointed the gift-givers, who had hoped for screams.

Later, I got this card, complete with a personal note from one of the girls, telling me what she had particularly enjoyed in my class and wishing me a great summer. She said she couldn't wait to see me in eighth grade.

Oh, and by the way, the frog leg was from girls, too.

Of course, the vast majority of the seventh graders didn't give me any gifts, but simply squirmed and dropped things and tried to turn in work five days late and said bye when I said bye to them. Now to see what summer does to them and how they morph into eighth graders.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Poetry Friday

It was a busy day and I never got a poem posted, but plenty of other people did, so go read what they shared here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Poetry Friday: Sestina: Like

While looking for a poem to share today, I found this one that is so very clever that I had to choose it. If you're not familiar with the sestina form, I explained it here. In this example, instead of choosing six different words to end the lines, A. E. Stallings has chosen just one, the omnipresent word "like."  She uses it to skewer Facebook, careless language, and the current lack of nuance in friendship. 

Sestina: Like
By A. E. Stallings
With a nod to Jonah Winter

Now we’re all “friends,” there is no love but Like,
A semi-demi goddess, something like
A reality-TV star look-alike,
Named Simile or Me Two. So we like
In order to be liked. It isn’t like
There’s Love or Hate now. Even plain “dislike”...

Here's the rest.

And here are some more Stallings poems I shared back in October 2010.


And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup, where you can find out what poems have to do with Doritos.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Art of Losing

I've been thinking about the earthquake this week, and the aftermath of it, particularly how it affected people in my life. I learned that people are much closer to falling apart than I had ever realized, and that we have no idea how a huge, unexpected, and completely uncontrollable event will affect us and the people we think we know. I learned that permanence is largely an illusion. I learned many good things, too, and I have shared them on this blog, but right now it is more the negative which are preoccupying me.

I decided to look back at where I was in May 2010, three years ago this week, and to post the poem that spoke to me then.

 Here's that post.

 And here's the poem:

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.  

So much lost.  So little progress towards mastery of that art.

But don't worry! I'm sure most of the people at this week's Poetry Friday roundup are in a better mood this week!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Poetry Friday: Any Fool Can Get Into an Ocean

I'm writing this on Thursday night because I'm heading to the beach in the morning for the Eighth Grade Retreat.  I went looking for an ocean poem and immediately found this one, which seems perfect.  

"Any fool can get into an ocean..."
Jack Spicer

Any fool can get into an ocean   
But it takes a Goddess   
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming   
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them

Here's the rest, including a reading of it.

Off to wade through the metaphor's seaweed.  Back on Saturday.

The roundup is here this week.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May Day

April, Poetry Month, is over.  As always, it ended up being such a busy month that I didn't have time to savor all the fabulous poetry-related projects going on in blog-land, and barely even got to finish reading the Poetry Friday posts each week.  I traveled to the IRA conference in San Antonio (and still haven't organized myself enough to write a post on the sessions I attended).

We have the day off from school today, because here in Haiti, as in many places around the world, May 1st is Labor Day.  I have spent most of the day working on my talks for the Eighth Grade Retreat we're having this coming weekend.  I've been thinking about what I want to say to these kids, looking at photos of them from their middle school years, and reflecting on how far they have come since I first started teaching them.  May is an ending; our school year goes on a little bit into June, but graduation is at the end of May, and everything is winding down into the summer pretty much from here on out.

Probably other middle school teachers will understand me when I say that spring in eighth grade is a challenging time.  It's a little bit like teaching seniors; you are wanting to maximize your time with them, to teach them all the things you know they're going to need next year, and yet in some ways you're ready to say goodbye to them.  They've become restless, ready to move on.  Some days they feel hostile from my vantage point in the front of the room, so different from those little kids who first entered my room at the beginning of seventh grade.  They tolerate middle school now, but they are made for bigger things, their attitude conveys.  These small desks can no longer contain the people they are.

So it's May, and another school year is almost history.  This has been a difficult year in some ways, mostly unbloggable, and I'm ready for the summer to come.  But I want to be present in this last month of school, focused on the task at hand, enjoying the people in my room each day.