Poem #2: End on a question


I’ve read the greats as well as the unknowns
Gobsmacked at the similes, metaphors, synecdoche, metonymy
Inspired by the diction, the imagery
I swoon, I weep, I ponder—the depth and breadth of human emotion
Present in the lines and stanzas of good poetry
All of it leaves me to wonder:

Why add one more voice?
Why add one more verse?
Does the world need one more poet, when it barely pays attention
To the ones who already inspire?

April and Poetry: “How to Write”

When I taught English, I loved April, because April is National Poetry Month and I loved teaching poetry. I loved reading a variety of poets with my students, discussing form, and letting them loose to write poetry.

Stueve told me today about NaNoPoMo, and since I’m in the process of rebuilding parts of my life, I figured I might as well try writing 30 poems in 30 days. Most days I will likely use the prompt, unless I’m feeling extraordinarily inspired.

I do not consider myself a poet, not by a long shot. So I make no guarantee to the quality of the poems I’ll write. But I know this much: this project is the ultimate exercise in practicing what I preach.

I tell my students all the time that to become better writers, they need to practice writing. They need to play around with form and function and language. And even if they think the writing isn’t great (and most of the time it won’t be), over time they will start to see flashes of brilliance–a word here, a sentence there–just from the cumulative effect of practice.

All of the poems I post this month will be first drafts–if you read one that you think is worth salvaging and working into something better, leave a comment and let me know. If you read one that is weak or trite or saccharine or angsty, talk about it behind my back with your friends.

Today’s prompt was “instructions on how to do something.”

April 1, 2019
How to Write

Sit on comfy gray couch, open the laptop
Stare at a blank screen, blinking cursor taunting—
“Write something. I dare you.”

Close the laptop, stand up
Look around, look for options—
Movie? TV show? Podcast? Piano? Or heaven forbid: clean something?

Pick up laptop, walk to desk, sit in oversized black office chair
Open the laptop, stare at a blank screen, breathe deeply—
Click away on black keys.

Don’t edit, don’t stop, just write.

Purpose of Poetry

Today I taught my students one possible way to analyze a poem. We read the title. We discussed what the poem might be about just from the title. We picked apart the literary devices. We evaluated its structure. We hypothesized about the theme and tone of the poem.

And the whole time, I thought about this poem by Billy Collins. Were we torturing a confession from the poem we analyzed as a class? I honestly don’t know.

Poetry, for me, should simply be experienced. Written or read, poetry should be loved. And when I come across a poem I don’t love? I find one I do, and settle in with it as if I’m relaxing into a chair that was custom made for my body.

I don’t want to kill poetry for my students. So tomorrow after we review some basic literary devices, I plan on letting them just read poems. Not analyzing the poetry they bring to class, but just reading and settling in with the poems.

But I’m really thinking about trying Poetry 180 with my students next year. Not picking apart each poem, but just starting each class reading a poem, just for the sake of reading it. Just to see what happens.

Unintentional Neglect and Sonnet 145.

Oh, my poor, poor, neglected professional blog. Every year I have such great intentions, and every year, I get sucked into all the papers to grade and books I should be reading and lessons I plan and tweak. I write regularly on my personal blog, but over here, blogging takes so much more thought.

I struggle to find topics about education that don’t end in a rant about NCLB. I stress over whether my tiny voice even matters. And then there’s the issue of time to develop something positive, something that might contribute to the ethereal “conversation.” 

So to ease back into this blog, I’ll jump on the National Poetry Month bandwagon and share some poems over the next couple of weeks. 

To begin, my most favorite Shakespearean sonnet. I read this poem the first time during a British Lit class at BYU, and it struck me as so different from his other sonnets. Rather than extolling the virtues of his love, this sonnet documents an argument. I love the fear he conveys as he waits for her to finish her sentence. Oh, just read it for yourself.



Those lips that Love’s own hand did make 
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languish’d for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come, 
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet 
Was used in giving gentle doom, 
And taught it thus anew to greet: 
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end, 
That follow’d it as gentle day 
Doth follow night, who like a fiend 
From heaven to hell is flown away; 
   ‘I hate’ from hate away she threw, 
   And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’