Friday, November 17, 2017

live from #ncte17

Like many of our poetry posse, I am lucky enough to be in St. Louis for the annual National Council of Teachers of English convention.  I arrived in time for a walk around its most famous landmark in beautiful crisp sunshine, and then I attended the Elementary Get-Together, which is not just "Hellooo!" and [HUG] and chat but which includes the presentation of various awards.

The specially honored yesterday were Katherine Bomer and Randy Bomer, and rather than summarizing the significance of their work or their talk, I'll pull out one small thing that Katherine said, about how, since her first NCTE in 1989, this event seems to come along just when teachers really need it. "Is it that way for you, too?" she asked, and there were nods and "Mm-hmms" and not exactly any "AMENS," but the room said "yes."

So I'm going back to understand why this 3rd week of November event has felt so important to me over the years, and see how it turns into a poem!

2009 Philadelphia
2010 Orlando
2011 Chicago & boots
2012 Las Vegas
2013 Boston
2014 Washington DC
2015 Minneapolis
2016 Atlanta
2017 St. Louis

November Comes, Town Emerges

Next week--Thanksgiving--
the whole country travels,
travels home for our
"American holiday."
Even the least blessed among us
have something to be thankful for,

But before that travel
some of the more blessed
travel home to English Town,
to Reading Town, to Writing Town,
wherever it may be this year,
and some of us most blessed

come home to Poetry Town.
We meet at the foot of
something large and shiny:
lowly LOVE, a faceted globe,
a bell tower domed in gold,
a gateway arch that leads into
a lofty cloud which opens

onto a village green.
We are surrounded by little cottages
built of books, filled with windows
and mirrors made of words.
We greet each other,
sighing with relief.

In back are the chickens,
which we feed every day
unless something gets in the way,
but we know that our neighbors
will take care if we are distracted.

And there is so much to distract:
the world outside seems made of guns,
made of floods and flame and hate.
We take a knee,

crushed up like velvet
under the weight of statues;
we poets fire back with delicate,
plush, lustrous words, risking
everything with an air of expectancy.

We poets put on our boots
with the transparent, permeable
soles that let in the grass, the puddle,
the crackling leaf, the sand, the snow,
the road less traveled, the mile
in another one's shoes

and we march back out of Poetry Town
towards thanks-giving
leaving the gate on the latch
for any passerby who needs
to come into the house of our poem.

draft HM 2017

The round-up today is with Jane the Rain City Librarian.  Put on your poetry boots and march on over for a visit to Poetry Town!


  1. Sigh.....thank you for these words, Heidi. Can't wait to see you. xxxx

  2. "Mirrors made of words"! <3 Poetry Town sounds amazing, Heidi. I have never been to NCTE, but I give thanks that you are there!

  3. This is a wonderful thought, Heidi. Leaving the latch at the end gave me a catch in my throat.
    Wishing all who need to find shelter, can. Whether in poetry or clay or photography or dance or . . .
    Appreciations to #NCTE2017 and all of them.

  4. I hope you are having a wonderful time at NCTE! I hope all of you gain strength with each other to continue offering shelter to your students.

  5. Wow. This poem is something else, Heidi. (Those boots!!!) Thanks so much for inviting me to your Poetry Town experience. Your a wonderful host. :)

  6. I've only been in 2013, Boston, and it is a good memory that keeps, Heidi. I love this celebration of a teacher's true Thanksgiving time. This year you've included much that will need to fuel those there for the next year, a 2nd year of distraction, but also hope for different. I believe those at NCTE would like to hear your poem in the final gathering! It is beautiful.

  7. Can I tell you how envious I am? Not so much of your numerous visits to NCTE, although that does make me a bit green, but of your talent as a writer/poet. I love what you've written today!

  8. Such a wonderful description. I hope you're having a blast.

  9. As you've traveled to this conference, we travel with you through your poem in our rough and tumbling times–thanks for this deep and wonderful journey in words Heidi, and for your invitation :
    "to come into the house of our poem." Happy Thanks Giving!

  10. Wonderful! Makes me want to jump on a plane and come join in. I especially loved these lines:
    "we poets fire back with delicate,
    plush, lustrous words"

  11. Holy wow, did you ever capture all of it ALL of it every BIT of it. Today was a lonely day without all my far-flung friends.

  12. A break from the world, but facing back toward the world, too. Never leaving one's job behind. That's the life of a teacher and a writer. To be both, that is impressive. I hope you and the others are finding exciting new paths to take.

  13. Your poem affected life?! Yes, you can share your lovely poem and its great "after story" with the world... Submit now on


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!