Poetry magnetizes both depth and the possible…

“Poetry magnetizes both depth and the possible. It offers widening of aperture and increase of reach… To step into a poem is to agree to risk. Writing takes down all protections, to see what steps forward. Poetry is a trick of language-legerdemain, in which the writer is both magician and audience. You reach your hand into the hat and surprise yourself with rabbit or memory, with odd verbs or slant rhymes or the flashing scarf of an image. This is true for discovering some newness of the emotions, and also true of ideas. Poems foment revolutions of being. Whatever the old order was, a poem will change it.”

-Jane Hirshfield, Psychology Today

Spring is in the air. We enjoy moments of sunshine and see the delicate pink and white blossoms on trees. We hear birds calling and feel warm breezes on our faces. This is the time of year that our young writers head out of their classrooms and into nature to be immersed in the writing of poetry. Students in many grades in lower schools and elementary schools begin observing, thinking, sensing, describing, feeling all that is around them just to jot down lists of words when put together have great meaning to them. When they jot down these words and share them with others, they take a risk and a step into the unknown. This April, I am hoping our students have these experiences even though they are not in school. The home environment, the extra free time and the slow build to boredom and ultimately creativity are fertile ground for poetic minds.

I taught first grade for about twenty years and I always looked forward to this time of year and launching a poetry unit. We always began with full immersion in the craft, exploring books, hearing poems and sharing words that intrigued us. We slowly moved to being observers of our surroundings, our feelings, our interactions, our everyday happenings.  Then, we began writing words, lists and phrases. We wrote together as a class. Kids faces would light up when they realized that we had actually written a poem! “It really sounds like a real poem!” they would exclaim in disbelief. It was hard for them to imagine that they had the power to create what they were reading in books and anthologies. For many kids, poetry was a welcome relief from the labors of narrative and non-fiction writing. I often found it the most accessible form of writing for the largest number of kids. Poetry also allowed for the most freedom and creativity. You could write from an object, an observation, a memory, a feeling and so much more. The classroom was alive with creativity, collaboration and expression. 

When I was a student, I was not taught poetry in this same way or encouraged to write poetry in this way. It felt inaccessible to me. It had nothing to do with who I was or what story I could tell. Now, I see teachers using poetry as a way for students to express themselves and tell their stories. I hear many voices being heard and stories being told from their young minds and thoughtful perspectives. Students are seen, known and heard through their poet’s voice.

I encourage you to allow yourself to indulge in some poetry sometime soon. Maybe read some Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Grimes, Mary Oliver or Valerie Worth. Those are just some of my favorites. There are so many more. Share a poem with your family or try to write one as a family. You will be surprised at what you end up with! I leave you with this haiku and a hope for some quiet, poetic moments this weekend.

Thinking comfortable
With a friend in silence
In the cool evening…



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