|Flickr photograph by Steve Johnson|
But somewhere during my undergraduate studies, poetry became something I studied rather than wrote. Notebooks were filed away into storage boxes, and my focus was drawn to how others crafted lines. Poetry became something to analyze rather than write. It wasn't until I entered the classroom again years later as a high school teacher that I rediscovered my love of poetry.
Shortly after starting my first high school teaching position, I sought out my local Writing Project. One of my undergraduate professors spoke so highly of his involvement with NWP, about how much his connection with fellow writing teachers helped him grow as a teacher of writing and as a writer. I enrolled in my first Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) course in the summer of 2003: Teacher as Writer. It was in this course that I first read Anne Lamott, Georgia Heard, and Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. We used these memoirs as mentor texts, not for how to teach writing but as guides for our own writing. As many of us rediscovered ourselves as writers, we also came to reflect on how we brought writing into our classrooms. We became writing teachers that wrote alongside our students. It was this first class that inspired me to once again put pen to page in a writer's notebook. And class after class, lead me to reflect on my role not just as a poetry teacher but as a poet teacher.
I have been fortunate to have a couple of my poems published, but even had I not sought opportunities to publish, my connections with the National Writing Project and what I have learned from so many wonderful mentors through PAWLP have helped me grow more confident in declaring myself a writer. I am a poet. This is what I do. Poetry is my means of making sense of my world, my tool of reflection. I listen to the rhythm of language, become entranced by well-crafted metaphors. Poetry is how I distill emotions, capture a memory, mark a moment.
As a teacher, I know that not every student who walks through my classroom door loves poetry. But many do. Whether or not they decide to pursue writing as a career, one of my jobs as a teacher of writing is to support students in finding avenues for engaging critically and creatively with their world. Writing is a tool for inquiry and a tool for reflection. Poetry, specifically, takes what often we find most difficult to understand and gives language to our confusion. As a teacher of poetry, my hope is that I do not dampen that love of the well-crafted line. Poetry is not simply something I want my students to analyze. Poetry is a tool for making sense of who we are in our world. Verse helps us come to terms with life's overwhelming complications and joys. Poetry is who we are.
And so I share another poem in progress. This came from a moment just the other day as I sat on my porch with my soon-to-be kindergartener.
To the Driver Who Blared His Horn and Cursed at the Student Driver:
Remember hands at 10 and 2,
tight knuckles white,
instructor to the right,
foot on the brake
as you eased for the first time
into oncoming traffic.
|My first car, held together mostly by Bondo|
Jen- This is so beautifully written. You truly captured the reason so many of us turn to poetry. Thank you for this reminder.
"Poetry is a tool for making sense of who we are in our world. Verse helps us come to terms with life's overwhelming complications and joys. Poetry is who we are."
Jen, I am pleased to meet your acquaintance and was especially struck by your line, "We became writing teachers that wrote alongside our students." The image of writing alongside our students is a powerful one that will forge relationships with pen to paper for many students. Your role of poet teacher is a powerful one that will affect change in your young charges. Thank you for sharing.
I'm kind of jealous that you have so much of your writing saved from childhood. It must be amazing to sift through those poems. Also, I think your students are fortunate to have your example as teacher/poet.
Thanks for sharing your poetry journey. Submitting our first poems are kind of like the driver in your poem!
Welcome to Poetry Friday! Hope you'll come back!
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