Friday, March 19, 2010

all that we remember

Happy Poetry Friday: share the love at Some Novel Ideas, a middle-school focused blog that I'm happy to discover.

Since my last post I've participated to my great benefit in two poetry stretches and the public charter school application has passed the Technical Review--and of course, while the district was doing their checkthrough to see if anything was missing, so were we. I-yi-yi we found some glaring omissions! So yesterday I stood in the Asst. Superintendent's office with one of the stalwarts of the project and replaced or added to 20 binders eight pieces that had gone wrong somehow, and crossed out a really important "not" on every page 95.

More interesting for you all in the Poetry Friday audience is page 29. Here is where I included the following perfect poem by Countee Cullen, a move which many considered too risky for a charter school supplication (which may be a better word than application, since if approved we would be the first public charter school in our district ever).


Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

~Countee Cullen

This poem leads the section about how, in addition to "what children know and can do," our schools must address what children feel, value and demonstrate as attitudes towards each other and the planet. This, to me, is what reading is for (among a few other important things), and what poetry is particular is useful for crystallizing.

"But, the word "nigger"?!" some said.
I said, "That's precisely the point."


  1. Hooray for you! I think Poetry can promote tolerance.

    Poetry is an art about the inner self. It helps people identify their feelings. If all the people involved in the Columbine shootings would have been aware of their feelings, then perhaps that "incident" could have been prevented.

    A guidance counselor could have been called in early. If the shooters were able to recognize the signs of depression, they may have been put on medication. They may have sought out some talk therapy from a qualified therapist, etc. The whole scenario could have turned out different.

    Laura Evans

  2. Good for you for including that striking poem. I hope your supplication brings the desired results!

  3. Congratulations for passing the Technical Review!

    Good advice buried in your story of continued re-reading and revision: a piece of writing is never finished! (Glad you removed the NOT and, although it's risky, glad you held firm for nigger. It's a strong point made stronger by strongly offensive (but historically accurate) language.)

  4. That is a poem with a bite! I hope it helps your charter school get going with passion & grace. You sound like you're on the right track.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!