Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Always a Poet

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
As some of you know, I've been participating in Chris Lehman's TeacherPoets online workshops for the past several weeks. (What?! You missed them?! Don't worry, there's still one left this Saturday, and you can watch all the previous session archives! Trust me, you'll learn a lot!)

In addition to all the learning (and fun!) in each hourly session, I've grown so much by digging deep into my own poetry throughout the week. Chris often tells us, "Poetry lives in revision." I've always been a revise-as-I-write writer, constantly changing my words as soon as I write them down... and then not wanting to look at them ever again once I declare them "finished". Watching Chris go through such detailed revision of his poetry, with multiple complete drafts, made me decide to try more drafts as well, to move beyond "good enough" and push myself to keep looking for better ways to craft a line. The mentor texts we've shared, the "big idea" that focuses each session, and the process of "workshopping" poetry together have made me think more deeply about how to raise the quality of a poem.

So instead of churning out a poem, playing with the words over an hour or a day, and then setting it aside, I've spent over a week crafting, drafting, revising, and tweaking one poem. (I'm planning to write another post about this process and how I brought it into my classroom... but not today!) This poem grew out of a moment from the original poem I wrote in response to Chris' question: "Why Poetry?"

Always a Poet

Blurry red numbers shine,
showing a time most people never see.
Dark shadows sprawl across the floor.
Silence and stillness.

The whole world lies sleeping:
my stuffed animals, cozy in my sheets.
The neighbor's dog, barking only it its dreams.
My parents, far away on their own peaceful island down the hall. 

But not me. 
Words buzz, hum, and dance inside my head.
Sparks fly as they come together.
There's school tomorrow, but my brain is busy now.

I swing my scrawny legs out from their cozy cocoon
and carefully sneak through slanted moonlight,
my familiar room now transformed
into murky mounds and secretive shadows.
The curly carpet tickles my little feet
as I beg the floorboards not to squeak.

I shiver at the smooth coolness of my desk chair
and fumble for the overhead lamp switch.
The sharp click echoes through the still shadows
and a bubble of soft light drapes itself over me.

Peeling back a deliciously smooth blank page,
I let the words tumble out joyfully.

Suddenly I'm soaring, carried high
on waves of words that jump and crash.
My pencil dances, not caring for my smudged hand,
my stiff wrist, my weary eyes, or the minutes ticking by.

Finally, my thoughts rest, content on the page.
Not yet perfect, but preserved.

I gently turn the desk lamp's knob and cringe
at another resounding click.
Without my dome of golden light
and without those buzzing words pinned on a page,
the darkness is deeper
and the silence stiller.


  1. Your poem is powerful with its clear and strong images! I think Chris' workshop is going to be my summer learning experience!

  2. Oooh! There are so many things I love about this poem!

    I love how I can sense the stillness of the night. I can just imagine your home-totally dark, except for the soft glow of your lamp; totally quiet, except for the quiet scribble of you pencil.

    I love how you used a picture of the numbers of your alarm clock ( with numbers people don't typically see!) to describe the late hour. Neat!

    I love how you have clearly communicated your need to write (how your pencil kept going despite your body feeling exhausted), and how you could only turn off your mind after you let the "buzzing" words escape from your mind on to the paper. I don't know why, but the word "preserve" really jumped out at me. It makes me feel like your thoughts were precious and that you didn't want to risk losing them by falling asleep.

    So much to love about this poem! And now I know how you always get so much done...you don't sleep!

  3. This poem is like a look into the secret room of a writer, you. The images are strong. I have a student who is much like this, writing in the wee hours because her mind is always thinking. It's both a blessing and a curse.


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