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Friday, May 17, 2013

Poetry Friday


From Wikimedia Commons

It's funny, I think, how a poem can wrap itself around your heart in different ways, at different times in your life. Don Graves introduced me to Marge Piercy's poem, "To Be of Use" almost twenty years ago. I still remember sitting in his study in Durham, New Hampshire, hearing Don read the poem aloud.

I fell in love with "To Be of Use" and have read it hundreds of times. I've used it repeatedly in workshops to talk about the importance of providing kids with work that is authentic and rich and deep. In fact, it's been kind of a theme song running through my work with teachers and kids.

But I am in a different season of life right now. The past two years have been long and spirit draining. Last week, a friend sent me a note reminding me about Piercy's poem. She alluded to these lines, in the middle of the poem. I went back and reread "To Be Of Use." And it was like I was reading an entirely different poem than the one I had read before. I'm struck, probably for the millionth time, by how much of a poem's meaning lies in the reader, not in the black squiggles on the page.

And I'm so grateful for poetry's healing touch.

And for this friend's sweet presence in my life.


"To Be Of Use"

…I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

Marge Piercy

Read the rest of the poem here.

Ed DeCaria is hosting Poetry Friday at Think, Kid, Think.

11 comments:

Mary Lee said...

**Hugs**

Tabatha said...

"...how much of a poem's meaning lies in the reader, not in the black squiggles on the page." -- you're so right, Carol! Thanks for sharing this marvelous poem with us today.

jama said...

So wonderful to read this poem again today, Carol. It's definitely one to return to again and again at different times of one's life.

"I'm struck, probably for the millionth time, by how much of a poem's meaning lies in the reader, not in the black squiggles on the page."

Yes, beautifully said!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I love this poem, Carol, and the message it speaks to. Over my desk, both at work and at home, I have TR's quote: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." I will add this poem to my wall, too.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

I love this poem, Carol, and the message it speaks to. Over my desk, both at work and at home, I have TR's quote: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." I will add this poem to my wall, too.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Yes, yes, yes! We all long to be useful, but maybe the key here is finding the "work that is real." Sometimes we cling so tightly to the act of "working" that we lose sight of our goals, or neglect other longings that are equally deserving, perhaps more "real" to us personally. Sometimes it's hard to see the difference, but the power is in the choices we make, not just the work we do.

Doraine Bennett said...

It is a beautiful poem. I am thankful for the squiggles on paper and for all the ways we take them into our hearts. May yours be peaceful today.

Margaret Simon said...

Thanks for this poem. I also love people who harness themselves. Let's get to work together and make this world a better place.

Ruth said...

Yes! So often when I reread a book or a poem, I see a completely different work from the last time. As you say, so much of the reading is in the reader. I love this poem, too. Here's to the massive patience of a water buffalo.

Penny Jansen said...

Jet lag! Insomnia! Youngest daughter's college graduation. The poem couldn't have come at a better time!

Beverley Baird said...

Love your post - I have to say I have been down lately and looking to leave education. What a gripping poem - thanks for sharing it.