He’s doing his 24 hour reading! Go here and check him out (and, if you can spare it, toss them a few bucks so they can fund their team’s trip to the national competitions)!
Category Archives: Poetry
I’m going to sacrifice a little anonymity here, but I promise you that permission was asked for and given.
Beau (aka Will), my beloved former student and now-TA, is a very accomplished poet. He’s earned himself a spot on the team going to the national competition, and he and his crew have devised an incredibly ambitious method of fund raising. If you’re so inclined, please help them out – and check them out; I think you’ll understand pretty quickly why I’m so proud of him…
On Wednesday, July 7 at 7am the 2010 Slam Free or Die team will attempt a never-before-achieved marathon of wordplay. Each reading in 24 hour shifts, the 5 team members and the coach and assistant coach will read for 7 days straight. This will be, as far as Google can tell, the longest continuous reading of poetry, prose, and fiction ever attempted! THIS ENTIRE EVENT WILL BE BROADCAST LIVE ON THE INTERNET, SO EVEN IF YOU LIFE FAR AWAY YOU CAN STILL TUNE IN AND PARTICIPATE! We will post the url of the stream the day of the event. (Chili’s note; I’ll make sure to post that here as soon as I get it!)
Our love of poetry aside, this event is a fundraiser for the 2010 team. For different donation amounts, viewers and audience members can make requests or even decide what will be read next. We love the poetry and spoken word community that has supported us from our humble beginnings and want you guys to be as involved as possible in this event!
You can either watch online or show up at The Colonel’s kitchen and watch any or all of the event in person!
Poets will have a break every 2 hours for 15 minutes; during these breaks, anyone can sign up to read so the event will remain continuous. You will need to be there in person and you can read anything you want (please, nothing intentionally offensive) during your 15 minutes. And yes, you can sign up for more than one slot if you wish. Slots that fall between 7am and 6pm require a donation of $1, slots that fall between 6pm and midnight are $2, and between midnight and 7am are free! You can sign up by emailing email@example.com. We will update the schedule accordingly.
Donations can be made at: http://bit.ly/sfod2010
Menu of Donations:
$1 a page – poet will read whatever you present to them either in person or via email
$.50 – to have a poem repeated that has already been read
$10 – have a chapbook, yours or anyone else’s, read cover to cover
$100 – in the first 12 hours for a poet to go ‘no repeat’ for the remainder for their section
$50 – in the second 12 hours for a poet to go ‘no repeat’ for the remainder for their section
$500 – at any time to have the reading from that point on to be entirely poetry
$1,000 – at any time to have the reading from that point to be ‘no repeat’
$1,500 – at any time to have the reading from that point on be ‘no repeat’ and entirely poetry
$50 – Beau will do his entire 24 hours shirtless, with your chapbook or local business or organization name written on his chest
$10 per hour – for “this hour brought to you by” your business or organization name, location, and info
$100 – for a full day “brought to you by” your business or organization name, location, and info
$20 – The Colonel will perform a full hour of Chuck Norris facts
$25 – for one hour, any of the following: Beau will not smile. JeFF will not move his arms. Tim will not do a funny poem. Mckendy will read in a falsetto. Krista will read only ‘male’ persona poems. Sam will read in a British accent. The Colonel will dance while reading.
*and we are open to other ideas and donation suggestions. Just let us know.
How to Attend a Writing Workshop in New England in the Summer:
because nothing that you could write
before you get there will make
you ready for what you’ll learn,
and nothing you can
imagine will tell you
what it will be like,
but for God’s sake,
bring a sweater.
Don’t imagine for a second
that you’re going to have
a decent shower,
so if a decent shower
is something you need
to be a writer,
(or a decent human being)
for God’s sake,
rent a hotel room.
You’ve got to be willing;
to eat brown food,
to trust that the strangers
on day one will be
on day six, and
that you aren’t
nearly as sucky
as you think you are.
make it about the money
or the hassle
of the train schedule,
or the brown food.
If you come at it right,
you’ll see that you
would have gotten a bargain
at twice the price,
that you got where you needed
to be in the end,
and that salad
was always an option.
Let go of the fact
that you think you always
and ruined relationships.
That you write at all
is what really matters;
the rest, as they say,
is fussy details.
for the love of God,
keep at it.
Do whatever you’ve got
call whoever you’ve got
run in the woods
or walk on the beach,
or hide in the library
or sit in your car,
just keep writing.
Driving to school this morning, I listened as a neuroscientist
told the world that he has the brain of a psychopath.
There are biological components
to how we behave, he explained, and he discovered that killer’s brains
make different patterns of light and color in the PET scanner
than those of people who keep their hands to themselves.
His mother, whatever her motives but with a knowing certainty,
spurred him to shake
his father’s family tree
to see what fell out.
Cousin Lizzie Borden, she of the famous Fall River Axe,
lurks among the branches,
along with no fewer than seven
other decidedly rotten apples.
Looking at the colorful map of his own brain,
our intrepid scientist learns that, but for the grace
of parents who loved him well as a child,
he could have been rotten, too.
In defense of our dreams, we are the kings and queens of promise.
Nature and nurture vie for supremacy
in a never ending push and pull of aspiration and desire,
and what wins out depends on an astonishingly delicate balance,
razor thin and just as sharp.
At what moment did our neuroscientist murder
the psychopath he has all the markers for being?
At what point did I brick off
the path that led,
with clear certainty,
to bitter desperation?
It is said that, until the moment of choice,
all possibilities exist in the same span
of time and space;
that it is not until the coin actually lands
that the tails becomes an impossibility.
My husband and I celebrate 14 years of marriage today (or, we would be celebrating, except that he’s away on business and I’m at this writing conference, but that’s kind of beside the point).
To commemorate the day, I worked out this first attempt at a poem. Now, I should note here that I’m not a poet… at least, not yet. I have a great deal of appreciation for poets; I marvel at the way just these few words can unearth so much meaning. I remember explaining to my kids once that writing poetry is like making maple syrup; the idea is to take these gallons and gallons of feelings and experiences and boil them down to a few sweet, rich, perfectly balanced words. I also use a keyhole metaphor; poetry is this tiny little opening through which one can see whole worlds.
I haven’t quite got there yet, though I have to admit that I’ve not worked too terribly hard at poetry, either. I’ve been thinking more about it, though, since taking Will into my classroom. He has a gorgeous way with poetry (I may ask him permission to post his piece about writing the dates on the bellies of stars), and the truth of the matter is that I aspire to write with the kind of depth and intensity that he does. I’m still dabbling at this poetry stuff, though, and I’m still trying to find whatever it is – my stride, my rhythm, my feet beneath me – that will make it click.
I wrote most of this piece in my head in the car on my way home from yesterday’s workshop. I’m not sure I like it… yet. I find, as a result of keeping a couple of blogs, that I do a lot of personal writing; there’s a lot of “I” in my work. For this reason (and because we had a really great conversation in my workshop yesterday about using voice to create a creative and critical distance from an experience), I decided to try to write this in the third person. I like the effect of it, but I’m not sure I’ve captured yet what I’m really looking to convey with this.
I beg for welcome your critique. Please; ask me questions, make suggestions, or even tear it apart. I want to figure out what my poet sounds like, and I’d like your help in finding her.
People say that they can finish each other’s sentences,
but what those people don’t understand
is that they don’t need to.
Words are unnecessary.
Their shared vocabulary
is wide and deep
and most often conveyed
with the twitch of an eyebrow
or a sly glance.
They dance to each other’s music
their movements quick and light
and seemingly effortless
to those looking in
on this pair as they move through the world
in near perfect rhythm
never once looking down at their feet.
Their world is made of innumerable small things.
She doesn’t eat breakfast, but makes sure
his favorite cereal is always in the cupboard.
He doesn’t mind the cold, and so
ventures into the freezing basement in winter
to retrieve the laundry.
To those looking in, the facts don’t add up;
how can so much mundane and commonplace
equal such unmistakable contentment?
Yet there they are,
their particular brand of quiet, certain, and
We had a Autism Awareness presentation yesterday, and as homework, I asked my Writing Workshop kids to write a poem in which they explored an alternate way of seeing:
What is “seeing”? How does your perspective affect the way you understand the world and how you express yourself in it? What happens when your way of seeing is vastly, drastically different from others’ ways of seeing?
Here’s what I came up with:
The roaring in my ears is incessant, lending the perfect soundtrack to the pounding of my heart I knew this would happen I brought myself here to this place of buzzing lights and cockroaches, of screeching metal on metal protests – No, no! I won’t do it; you can’t make me - of casual carelessness, jostling and touching and nearly tripping, of intimacy with strangers I’ll never see again. As newspapers and paper bags bearing the oily ghosts of someone’s breakfast chase each other in the stinking breath, hot and dusty and sharply metallic the train arrives and I knew this would happen and - No, no! I won’t do it; you can’t make me.
The truth is, they’re ALL my favorites (and don’t you roll your eyes at me; I really DO love all my kids).
Right now, though, this kid is my favorite. His group has been tasked with an in-depth analysis of a poem or song using the tools and techniques we went over in class last week. He was inspired, after overhearing a conversation I had on Thursday with the music theory teacher, to have a look at The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Get a load of this awesome shit I found in my inbox!
While looking at the song, it started to sound like it was an epic. I can back it almost up but not quite. I was wondering if you considered it an epic or not.
The term “epic” has been used in modern times to define something that has a broad, sweeping sort of feel to it, but that’s not the literary definition of an epic.
The general “rules” for an epic are that the hero has to have some kind of great national or cosmic significance. The story often covers a great deal of geographical distance – one of the conventions is that the hero goes away from home (often for some heroic battle or noble cause) and encounters all kinds of trouble getting home (often to his one true love who is, of course, waiting chastely for him). It often (though not always) begins “in media res” (in the middle of the story). There are usually supernatural elements that both hinder and help the hero in whatever it is he’s doing, Finally, the epic – the classic epic, that is – is meant to serve as a sort of national or cultural lesson that helps a particular people establish or reinforce an identity.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic in the classic sense of the word (as is The Hobbit). The argument can be made (as I did in class) that Forrest Gump is an epic (the “supernatural forces” aren’t plainly in evidence – we don’t actually SEE spirits or gods or whatever helping him along – but it DOES serve to reinforce some of the more basic values in the American culture). Of course, The Odyssey is an epic (and, really, the standard for defining the genre).
I don’t think, really, that The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald fits the classic definition. If we were to categorize it into a literary genre, I’d be more inclined to call it a narrative poem (a poem that tells a specific story) with the feel of an elegy, which is a poem that is meant as a lamentation for someone who has died. The classic form of elegy is written in couplets with rhyming last words: though the Edmund Fitzgerald doesn’t follow that style, the general tone and specific purpose of the song DOES match with the intent of the elegy.
How much do I love that you’re thinking about this kind of stuff? You rock my world, kid; thanks!
I love my job!
I’m continuing a poetry unit with my I/II kids (don’t even get me started on the Poetry Out Loud debacle. I’ll write more about that later). Yesterday, I assigned them the reading of Poe’s famous poem. Along with that, I posted links to both a video clip of the Simpson’s Treehouse of Terror episode that features The Raven and of James Earl Jones reading the entire poem.
Two students left comments on our website about the assignment last night. One said that I was awesome for letting them watch The Simpsons (really, Honey? You haven’t noticed by now how awesome I am?) and the other, in response to the James Earl Jones reading, commented “OMG! It’s MUFASA!”
No, Sweetie; it’s Darth Vader
He’s a very talented guy.
1. I’ve had a TON of things to write about over here, but I’ve just not found the time to do it. I’ll try to get here a bit more regularly; things are happening – exciting things, even – that I want to let you all in on!
2. I was practically eager to get back to work after the holiday break. I found that I missed my students and the things that we do together. I was delighted to go back to work on Monday, and it was fun to hear all their stories about things that happened to them during our vacation.
3. Knowing full well that this week would essentially be a wash (while the kids got used to getting back into a regular schedule and, you know, thinking), I planned a pretty “easy” week. My I/II kids are working on getting ready to participate in our local Poetry Out Loud competition (which is happening Monday) and my III/IV kids are going to do a month-long investigation of film as literature. We started with the Cinderella story this week; they read several versions of the story and we started watching Ever After today. They’ll see The Karate Kid on Thursday while I’m away at a workshop.
4. Speaking of the Poetry Out Loud competition, I brought a guest speaker to school this morning. One of my former students is neck-deep in the slam poetry scene in our area, and he practically JUMPED at the chance to come to school to perform for and talk to my class. I invited my colleague’s class to join us, and all the kids were enthralled for the whole hour and a half that Beau talked to them. He delighted me as a student when I had him in my first semester at TCC, and I’m incredibly proud of him now. He’s poised, articulate, creative and, well, just awesome, and I’m so glad he agreed to come to school today. He’s totally going on my guest speaker list; we’ll do this again the very next chance I get.
5. I’m terribly excited about the Film as Literature unit I’m doing with my III/IV kids. I’m looking forward to seeing some really great films (Amistad, Secondhand Lions, Nuremberg, Ever After, The Karate Kid, I, Robot, and possibly Timeline) with these kids. We’ve spent all semester practicing critical thinking skills; I’m eager to see how well they can apply those skills to their viewing practices, as well.
6. I’m going to three professional development workshops being held at Local U this week and into next. It means I’m going to miss three days of classes at CHS, but it’s going to be totally worth it; my colleague will take my I/II kids into her class (we’re all working on literally the same thing, anyway) and my III/IV kids will be viewing movies and working independently for the time I’ll be away taking more than nine hours of FREE professional development workshops. One does not say “no” to free professional development hours, especially when the workshops are interesting and relevant to one’s practice. Plus, they’re feeding me lunch! Score!
7. I still don’t know what I’m going to be teaching at CHS next semester (which starts February 1st). I know I’ll be teaching something, but exactly what is still a mystery. It turns out that the school did not get a grant that we’d applied for a month or so ago, which means that my director is going to have to scramble to make the money work. I don’t really care what she pays me; I just want to teach.
8. Being a teacher is sometimes (okay, quite often) awesome. I just bought 6 brand new books for $3 each through a publishing company that wants us to buy our books from them. They sell exam copies to teachers in the hopes that we’ll find something we like and place a bulk order. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hear from me again sometime very soon.
9. Two separate people gave me posters for my classroom for Christmas. I will buy frames for them (because I think taping posters to the wall is tacky, and I know I can get poster frames for 5 bucks each at the Christmas Tree Shops), but I’ll have to wait a bit before I can hang them; I still don’t have my own room. My dearest wish is that, by the start of the next school year, I’ll have a space that’s just mine. While I don’t mind sharing my space with others (in fact, they’re sharing their spaces with me), I really do want a room of my own.
10. I discovered, just recently, that my style of teaching has a name (who knew!? Not I!). What I really want for my new classroom (when I get it) is a big oval table that we can all sit at as a class. The scheme we’ve got now is that small groups sit at separate tables, and while I CAN make that work, it’s hard to keep everyone focused on the group as a whole. Anyway, I’m going to be putting out the call to those of my friends and colleagues who have a knack for getting good stuff cheap (or free – free is good!) to see if anyone can score me a big ole dining room table big enough to seat 12-14 people. I have NO idea how I’m going to get it up to the fourth floor (or through my classroom door, for that matter) but I’ll worry about that when I get there. What I know for sure is that I definitely want to figure a way to get my classroom more together than I can manage if everyone’s sitting at separate tables.
Happy Tuesday, Everyone!
I’ve been tasked with putting together a curriculum for CHS’s English department.
Carrie took me aside a while ago and told me that one of the reasons she hired me was so that I could re-work the entire English curriculum; she’s been doubtful about the way English as been taught at CHS for a while now (and I can’t say that I blame her, really; as far as I can tell, there’s really no plan at all there, and there really should be, both for the teachers’ sake and the kids’). She asked me if I’d be willing to start from scratch and put together an ordered, careful curriculum that would span all four years and hit all the standards for a college-preparatory school.
Of course, I said “yes!” What teacher wouldn’t jump at the chance to design his or her own curriculum? Is it a shitload of work? Hell, yes! Is it worth it? You betcha.
The thing is, though, I don’t want to do it alone. If nothing else, I am well aware of the limitations of my “box.” There are certain books and poems that I like to teach, certain movies that I like to show, and certain aspects of grammar that I feel have a firm enough grasp of to be able to teach really well. I don’t want to limit myself, though, to only those things that I think of.
This is where you come in, Dear Readers. I want your input.
Here are the basics. I’m looking to assemble four years’ worth of English classes – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior – that cover the standards of reading, writing, viewing, and communication. I’ve done some surface investigation and have discovered that the curriculum standards for secondary school English are pretty much the same in most states; there’s some variation of the wording of the frameworks, but for the most part, they all want kids to come out of high school with strong communication (both written and oral), interpretive, and critical thinking skills. You can go to your own DOE and look up the specifics if you want, but I think that common sense will tell you most of what you need to know about what the kids need to know.
My goal for this is to create a template that addresses the skills and competencies the kids need to demonstrate, and then use that template to fill in the materials – the books, the exercises, the films, etc. – that the teachers will offer the kids to help them get to those skills and competencies. I want for the curriculum to be flexible – for the individual teacher to be able to scratch out this book in favor of that one, as long as s/he can justify the usefulness of the substituted text – because I know for sure that one of the things that drew most of our staff to CHS is the fact that we’re not told that we HAVE to teach THIS book to THIS grade level.
I’ve not committed anything to paper yet, but I’m envisioning a sort of scaffolding scheme. The freshman class will start with the basics; the elements of fiction, an introduction to the writing process, some introductary work with poetry and drama, and a little bit of work with persuasion and media. The sophomores will work a little bit more with what we started as freshman; taking their reading into a more critical exercise, introducing the some fundamental research techniques, digging a little bit deeper into poetry and drama, and beginning work on public speaking and persuasive writing. The juniors will start getting into extended writing projects that take on both informative and critical approaches to the reading and viewing they do, they’ll start to make connections between literature (in whatever form the teacher chooses to present it) and culture, and they’ll work harder on the ethical practice of research.
The senior year ties it all together; those kids will start looking carefully and critically at the way literature informs (or is informed by) culture and how we express our humanity through the words we choose to commit to paper. They’ll make connections between literature and history and they’ll think critically about the ethical responsibilities of being a consumer of literature. They’ll take their writing practice up another level (my goal is to teach essentially the same writing skills to my seniors in high school that I teach to my freshman at Local U.) and focus on using the rhetorical skills they’ve picked up in the earlier grades.
What I’m asking for from you is critque, reading suggestions, and stories about your best high school experiences. What books did you read that you adored (or which do you think it’s vital for kids to read today)? What lessons stuck with you, lo these many years later? What do you wish your teachers had done when you were in high school English class? What would you like to see teachers focus harder on today – what do you want YOUR kids to come out of high school knowing?