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Friday, July 28, 2017

POETRY FRIDAY

I had the incredible opportunity of working with Donald Graves during my graduate level courses. Don probably taught me more about teaching and living than anyone before or since, he's definitely one of my most important teachers and mentors. Don loved poetry, and wrote and shared it pretty much every time we were together. One of the first poems he ever shared is still one of my favorite poems of all times. At this time of year, when I am thinking about going back to school, and wanting to provide teachers and kids with authentic, joyful, life-changing literacy experiences, it seems especially relevant. 

Greek Amphora, Photo by Sharon Mollerus, found on Wikimedia Commons



To be of use
BY MARGE PIERCY
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

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.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy, "To be of use" from Circles on the Water. Copyright © 1982 by Marge Piercy. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved

Linda Mitchell is hosting Poetry Friday today. She has a terrific first line swap writing activity, I'm dying to try it, but it will have to be after work today

12 comments:

Brenda Harsham said...

Oh, there is something deeply American about that poem and sentiment. Something made of the clay and baking sun of this land. It's people who plunge in who make the world a place worth living. I am with you there.

Ramona said...

First time to to read this poem. I love these lines:
"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."
Here's to a wonderful beginning of your new school year.
Kudos to you for being one of those who moves things forward!

Mitchell Linda said...

Wow that you worked with Donald Graves....and wow to this poem. What a great motivational message for teachers headed back and their students. I feel mentored myself just from being here. Thank you!

Linda B said...

I agree, Carol, to say "I want to be with people who submerge/in the task" is so inspiring at the beginning of the school year and all through it. Best wishes for a lovely start. I envy you the time with Donald Graves, still have his books, hard to part with them!

Jane @ www.raincitylibrarian.ca said...

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

This is one of the reasons I love working with children so very much - the work can be hard and stressful, and there have been times when I've just felt overwhelmed and in over my head, but at the end of the day I always feel like I'm doing something worthwhile and meaningful, and that makes all the difference.

Mary Lee said...

Thank you for this, Carol (and Donald). It brought me right back down to earth and reminded me who I am. It's easy to wail the "back to school" sad song, when in fact, I am ready to harness up and get to work.

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful poem. Yes, we need people willing to dig in and do the work that needs to be done. Best wishes as you gear up for another school year.

Ruth said...

You're right - this is perfect for this back-to-school time of year.

Carlie said...

Wow. So so so good. I feel like I want to memorize that one. Thanks so much for sharing.

Jone MacCulloch said...

Thank you for sharing this Marge Piercy poem. I am going to save it. And what a treasure to work with Donald Graves.

michelle kogan said...

Beautiful, metaphorical poem, for a turning of the season, or task that's changing. How wonderful that you worked with Donald Graves, thanks for all!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Missed a week, but Mary Lee sent me back here, to a poem I know and love. At this time of year I try to remember that
"The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a CHILD for work that is real."