Friday, February 19, 2021

slps 4: frost & fletcher

How it's going down in my district...I'm perpetually downtrodden.

So today in my self-led poetry study I reach for a wee volume called 101 POEMS THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE: An Anthology of Emotional First AID (HarperCollins 1999). Published in the UK and edited by Daisy Goodwin, it has familiar famous poems and some you wouldn't know at all.

 This one's in the birthday section, and I'm familiar, but I never read it as a poem about aging.  It's a poem about learning, I think. Which, oh, IS a poem about age, wisdom, experience.

What Fifty Said | Robert Frost

When I was young my teachers were the old.
I gave up fire for form till I was cold.
I suffered like a metal being cast.
I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now when I am old my teachers are the young.
What can't be molded must be cracked and sprung.
I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.
I go to school to youth to learn the future.


I've lost my faith in school--not all schools, but in School as a concept. It must be cracked and sprung and I'm too tightly bound to break it.  There is, there will be suffering.

What  could possibly go with this, from my collection of poems for young readers?

In the same year as my SQUEEZE came out, Wordsong published A WRITING KIND OF DAY: Poems for Young Poets by Ralph Fletcher (2005).  I. love. this. book. 

I've just rediscovered this poem.

Writer's Block | Ralph Fletcher

We're doing grammar in school

which is bad enough but now

it's infiltrating my dreams.

I dreamed I was playing football

against a huge run-on sentence--

Coach said I had to stop him.

I threw a wicked block on that sentence

that knocked him into the next paragraph

and dislocated three compound words.

Verbs cracked! Nouns splattered!

That big sentence just splintered.

Til. Only. Fragments. Were. Left!



 Hm. Perhaps I'm less downtrodden than angry. I dream of dismantlement.


The round-up today is with dear Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town.

I shall go in search of braided sweetgrass, of solace.



  1. I hear you...but feel overwhelmed at the size of the changes needed...the cracking of metal. Ouch. These days, it's all too clear that we are hired to make sure the kidlets are safe during parents work day, fed and kept out of the way until legal age. If learning happens, bonus. I really didn't want to go dark. There are some really great moments in education. But yeah, we're not serving the kids as much as the kids serve the system these days.

  2. I love both of these poems. I hear you with the changes our schools need. Unfortunately, the changes I see (at least from our IN state legislature) seem to be moving in the wrong direction. I was very downtrodden and left several years ago. Even though I miss reading and writing with students, I haven't seen anything that makes me want to return to a classroom. Hugs to you who are still hanging in there.

  3. Oh, Heidi. I don't even know where to start about the state of our educational system and the changes that are needed. I've lost a lot of faith over the past few years--in so many different arenas. I find so much of what I see and hear in our society simply incomprehensible and deeply disturbing. I find hope in the fact that there are passionate, dedicated people like you in the mix.
    On another note, once again you've served up a thoughtful poetic duo. I love benefitting from your juxtapositions and insights. That Ralph Fletcher poem is especially fabulous!

  4. I love both poems, but Ralph has me grinning. Grammar is often set up in schools as the enemy to be won. Schools are broken. It's so sad for those of us who just have a passion for being with kids. I want to watch the transformation that is necessary and painful from retirement. Maybe that's a cop out.

    1. Wrote my comment before I read everyone else's. Let's not WATCH from retirement, let's find a way to ACT!

  5. Oh, yeah. I feel your anger and dreams of dismantlement. I feel like a traitor, bowing out right now when the needs are greatest, but hope to find a sledgehammer I can wield from outside the system.

    You continue to amaze me with your pairs of poems. Perfection.

  6. I come from the perspective of an independent school that did do things in different ways, and the granddaughters are in specific models of public schools that also vary approaches, wishing for the thoughts of those in power could be "cracked and sprung" & allow teachers like you to lead the way because you "know" what works. I love the poems, Frost & Fletcher always hit the mark!

  7. So much to unpack here, Heidi, and so many feelings flow through me as I read these two poems and your/everyone's comments. I am an educator-once-removed (sort of teaching but living abroad). I am a parent of a child who has been profoundly let down by 'schools'. And I am a poet learning from a brilliant educator poet, you. Thank you. :)

  8. "I gave up fire for form till I was cold." Such sadness here. I love this pairing and laughed at the too exuberant tackling of the run on sentence.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!