Tonight I was sitting in my back yard, staring into the flames that were leaping in the outdoor fire pit, wondering what I would teach my students tomorrow. First I thought about poems I might want to introduce them to. Then I asked myself, “What do I want them to learn about poetry tomorrow?” In the end there’s only one thing to learn about poetry, and of course I can’t teach it. That is, we need to learn to go inside, to explore the dimensions of our hearts and minds. Well, I can’t teach that, but maybe they’ll discover it by delving into one of these poems:
1) “Stone,” by Charles Simic. Simic, our current Poet Laureate, offers an imaginary peek inside a common, stepped on, ignored, thrown in the pond, sometimes flinty, stone. I think this poem will be a good one to begin with, as it is less threatening to journey inside a stone at 10:20 on a Monday morning than it would be to start right off with looking inside ourselves. We can work our way up to that as the weeks progress. To hear Simic read “Stone” click here.
2) “The Unwritten” by W.S. Merwin. Here, Merwin brings us inside a pencil. That’s getting closer to the heart of things, but a pencil is still seemingly just an object made of wood, and so again, it won’t seem too terribly threatening. Until, of course, we start to write about what word is hiding inside our pencils, waiting to be written. (Visit this site to see a copy of the poem … you’ll get a writing assignment while you’re there.)
3) what the mirror said” by Lucille Clifton. This poem brings us to the mirror, where each poet can look inside her own eyes, and if she dares, she can write about the territory that is found there.