Friday, August 31, 2018

"all the world is all of us"

I went back to see whether my first-days-of-school post last year expressed any of the even-keeled matter-of-fact even-slightly-boredness that I'm feeling during this year's preservice week, and the answer surprised me.  At this time last year my blog makes NO MENTION OF THE START OF SCHOOL.  I, who have lived for the excitement and possibility of the new year since, well, 1968, have been rather unmoved by it for two years now.  I'm shocked.

But honestly, this year feels different even than last. This year I'm very aware that the fresh new folders and the fussing over my first-day script and our new schedule's opportunity to be faithful with #PoemADay are all just routine--they're what I've done every year for 30 years.  This year I'm very aware that the big excitement doesn't come until the kids walk in.  The true fresh newness is the living breathing being of the collective class:  how will I welcome each and every child as she or he is, and help them turn that welcome around and beam it on to their classmates? [This little light of mine--I'm gonna let it shine...]

This is not achieved by standing at the copier prepping days' worth of paper, by fancying up the decor, by micromanaging my slot on the library check-out schedule (the one of those three things that I have done this week and which I now see was unnecessary).

Being prepared, creating a comfortable environment, providing for a workable timetable--all these help, but none of them are the real work of a teacher in these days, in this moment.  The real work is, as it has always been, interpersonal, emotional, the work of commitment to the balance of liberty and justice for all in the deep formative experience of 2nd grade, any grade.  That looks different in American classrooms now, is always changing, but has reached a tipping point, as the pundits say.

So here's an appropriate little back-to-school poem, friends.  Labor over this at the weekend, and have a great new year of school.


Declaration of Interdependence | Janet Wong

We hold these truths
to be not-so-self-evident--
but think about them a while
and you might agree:

all men are created equal-
ly a puzzle, made up
of so many parts;
and each of us makes up part

of the greater puzzle
that is our nation.
Lose one piece
and the picture is incomplete.

What happens when
too many pieces,
one by one,
become lost?

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit
of Happiness: let's do our best
to find the pieces that fit together,
to make our picture whole.

from Declaration of Interdependence, presciently 2012
by Janet Wong

 
Thanks to Robyn over at Life on the Deckle Edge for hosting Poetry Friday today. March on over and see where you fit in the greater puzzle.

Friday, August 17, 2018

sandwich generation

https://bit.ly/2BlB7uJ
It's 1:52 pm and I'm only just realizing that it's Friday, it's THAT Friday, like every Friday--it's POETRY Friday.  You might think that means that I'm so relaxed and checked out here at the end of my long summer that I've lost track of what day it is, but no...

It's more that I'm having trouble surfacing from my deep dive into the past for this memoir WIP that has taken over my mornings.  It requires a lot of internet research--everything from who narrated the record album versions of Winnie-the-Pooh that I listened to in 1970 to the names of all the books by Marilyn Sachs that I read between 1973 and 1977 to what year Wesleyan Alpha Delta Phi started calling their dance parties "VORTEX: the party that really sucks" to what club I would have danced in in Manhattan,1986 to the what Metro line we were riding in 2007 when Daisy got off and Duncan and I didn't.  (Here's a little present from me to you of a similar age, by the way.)

Funnily, though, not everything I dredge up leads to memory or even memoir.  Some of it leads to poems that I could only write right now, in this moment, at this age.  Like this one--bon appetit!



sandwich generation 

Back when I was just cheese or
lebanon baloney with mustard,
French’s yellow mustard on
Pepperidge Farm white,
a sandwich was nothin' but a sandwich:
light, bright, handy, daily
gift.  The Archway cookie
tucked under one layer of my
folded paper napkin was
the icing on the cake,
so to speak.

That was before we discovered
whole wheat bread and
grainy mustard, before I went
anywhere and sandwiches
became a bit more pleasantly
complicated.
I was open faced hot turkey
with Thanksgiving gravy,
roasted and basted in the
ancestral kitchen;
I became open-faced cheese
on toast under a British grill.

Now the other shoe has dropped
(there’s a pair of them), the case
is closed, and it’s clear which side
my bread is buttered on: both.
Below me the 19-grain bun, the yeasty glazed donut,
above the gentle weight of Arnold’s Brick Oven White.

Now I’m tuna salad with
finely chopped celery,
not too much mayo,
tuna melt with cheddar if I’m
going for the Best Sandwich
Oscar, pickles for him,
cucumber for her, heaped
between the two slices
of bread.

Now I’m once-a-week
processed packaged smoked
turkey with avocado guacamole
always wishing for some sprouts,
mustard AND mayo, glass  of
milk, chips on the side,
the Saturday sandwich lunch
that I think is my uncomplicated
childhood though I never had that.

Now I'm peanut butter, ground-
nuts full of healthy fat,  ground
shapeless into a paste that
sticks to your ribs, saves lives
and goes with everything from
concord grape jelly to Miracle Whip
to carrots, apples and bacon,
edible at lunch, breakfast,
and in a pinch for dinner.  

Call me creamy until it turns
out I was wrong about that:
everyone likes crunchy better,
the way the solid bits persist,
tickle your teeth.  I spread thin
into all four corners, oozing
when I’m overfilled or when
I’m sliced by the hands
of a clock.

Bread above me,
bread below me,
am I holding it all together?
I’m a hero.

draft ©HM 2018

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The round-up today is with Christy over at Wondering and Wandering. Flap on over for some birdy beauty and so much more!

Friday, August 3, 2018

be my next inspiration

Poetry Luck abounds this summer: here visiting friends in London my family was invited to the launch of Be My Next Inspiration, a collaboration designed to support the Young People's Laureate for London project.  It was a small but mighty affair, a pop-up stage in a London-proper narrow lane with a fair crowd and a feature we always appreciate:  civilized consumption of alcohol in a public space.

But wait--go back a second: a Young People's Poet Laureate for a city?  I mean, London is more than just a city, but I can tell you that my locality, large as it is, does not have a poet laureate of any kind, much less one dedicated to being and raising the voices of young people aged 13-25.*  And on this program was not one inspiration, but SIX young poets performing their work and representing both the wide variety of flavors to be found in the capital but also their shared experience of being young, British and susceptible to marginalization.

Here are some ways to enjoy the same poems that we heard on Tuesday night.

**************************************

The Story We All Know | Caleb Femi

I know I am the unreliable narrator of
this story
but if anyone is to tell it let it be me.
It starts as the wind blows through
the hollow torso of a concrete estate
singing like a clarinet does when bad news
drags its solemn face into a crowd of kids...



This story starts in Barking where they
tuck their wonder
under a pillow as it is too precious to
bring it into the classroom....

This story is a loop of starting,
and kids don't know where
they start and the story ends.

*************************
PhilospHer | Rakaya Esime Fetuga




































home | Zia Ahmed

running like thought running from thought rattling from the constant battling
broken pieces floating tokens token gestures token jester open sesame ali baba forty
thieves forty grievances nothing to pledge allegiance with trapped in a box...


I highly recommend you watch the rest here on BBC Asian Network.

And here is this year's Young People's Laureate, 24-year-old Momtaza Mehri.  From an article in the Evening Standard:
Mehri is a Somali-Brit who grew up in Kilburn and Birmingham. For her, poetry has never conformed to one particular tradition. “I was raised in a household where there was lots of poetry around me, recited, cassette poetry that my father used to play. A lot of it wasn’t in English but I also really liked the poetry anthology taught at school — so I would go home and research and be like, ‘Oh my God, Sylvia Plath, who is this?’ I was involved in many traditions at the same time.” Moreover, she also spoke four different languages. “It was the kind of household where if you’re getting shouted at by your aunt to come downstairs, in one sentence she will use Somali, Arabic, Italian and English.” 
She immersed herself in a dawning online scene, the poetry that was beginning to be published on Tumblr and LiveJournal, and watching def poetry jams on YouTube. “I was feeding my own obsessions in my own home.”
She remains thrilled by the possibilities of this live, labyrinthine archive, which grows online every day. “It’s allowed people to access worlds they would not necessarily have been exposed to.” Her inspirations include Mourid Barghouti, a Palestinian poet, June Jordan, Amiri Baraka. “And Keats. Always.”
No Name Club | Momtaza Mehri































  
This event was sponsored by Spread the Word, the parent literary organization of the Young People's Laureate, and by BUREAU Creative Agency, which produced a publication of the evening's work.  View it here.  You should know that the Young People's Laureate for London project is in danger--there is no funding in place for next year's program.  I made my donation here and maybe you will too, to support #diversevoices and #diversebooks in our English-speaking culture.  And of course you can follow all these poets on Twitter!

The round-up today is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where you always get more than a year's worth of reading.

 *However, check it out:  Montgomery County, PENNSYLVANIA, does have a Poet Laureate, and our Maryland's capital Annapolis just instituted a Poet Laureate program, which makes me think that Montgomery County, MD definitely needs one.