Radical Poetry (how I am rebelling with a weekly poem)

I truly enjoy tutoring in writing. The challenge of teaching students from wildly different backgrounds to argue using the written word, the camaraderie of the Academic Resource Center, the opportunity to spend hours every day thinking and talking about writing all floats my boat just fine. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I also get frustrated. Some of my students students treat words as hammers to pound out a enough analysis to get As on their papers, rather than as subtle, secretive, glimmering friends. On these days, I rebel by finding a new poem to put on the community white-board.

I put up a poem at least every week. My poems speak clearly, are not aggressively complex linguistically, and leave me with small and shimmering images. As I know from memorizing music, the act of copying ingrains the text of my poems into my mind, where I can pull them up and examine their language whenever I want to. Here have been my choices thus far:

  1. Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
  2. Those Winter Sundays” by Robert E. Hayden
  3. To David, About His Education” by Howard Nemerov

For a campus with no English majors, I feel a little radical, a little subversive pushing poetry in the ARC. Because all of the introductory English classes assign only non-fiction work, my poems are the only exposure most students get inside the University to fiction. Just writing that makes me sad.

For my next few poems, I am considering “To a Daughter Leaving Home” by Linda Pastan, “For a Five-Year-Old” by Fleur Adcock, and “The State of the Economy” by Louis Jenkins. For fans of Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” you may recognize a lot of these poems–that is where I fell in love with them.

Inspirational Quote:

What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
–“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert E. Hayden


  1. The title of Luci Shaw’s latest book of poems,”Harvesting Fog”, refers to a method practiced by coastal Peruvians of hanging cloth on balconies until they are saturated with moisture from the dense fog, then wringing out the water, and using it to drink and cook. In the foreword to the collection, Shaw notes this process is “a lot like writing poems. Something’s in the air, a word, an impression…you grab it and then you catch more drops and pool them altogether, and wring some fresh meaning out of them.” Harvested by the poet, these become “a new entity that satisfies a thirsty imagination.” Those with thirsty imaginations can drink deeply here.

  2. Hi! Just found your blog (from your .sig, which somehow I’d never actually read before). Am enjoying reading it (and your subversive poetry).

    Incidentally, ask me sometime about our former math tutor who visited Damascus on vacation.

  3. @Baba: that is beautiful! I love that image. Anne Lamott writes about writers needing to “fill up” on the outside world so their uncontrollable unconscious can get its work done. I love the quotes!

    @Marjorie: I absolutely will!

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