|Photo by Frank Douwes, "Child Reading," Wikimedia Commons|
Last year, Mary Lee elected to write about a song writer/activist, Malvina Reynolds. I thought about choosing my own activist, and even went so far as to do some research to find a person that interested me, but then when I wrote to that person, to ask her if I could write poems, she wanted to read each one before I published it. Which made perfect sense, but just wasn't do-able for me, given the crunch of writing in April. And then because I was a total wimp, and didn't come up with another idea, I just didn't write. And I was sad all month. I decided that no matter what, I was not going to miss another April.
This year, Mary Lee is going to do another amazing series. She has 30 students in her class (phew!). She let each student choose a quote, and each day, she's going to write a poem, based on one of their quotes. But wait, this gets better. Not only is she going to write a poem. She's going to write a "Golden Shovel" poem each day. Her first one, "Keep Your Promises," is here. I wrote one golden shovel poem in March, and it took me pretty much all day to do it.
So again this year, if I wanted to write poetry, I needed to venture out on my own. Which is kind of scary. Mary Lee always had such good themes. The accountability of knowing that people were going to be looking for my poems kept me writing. And I said before, I loved writing as a part of that community.
I have been thinking for weeks about what I might do. At first I thought I might choose a specific format (but NOT Golden Shovel, Mary Lee, those are TOO HARD!). I also thought about choosing four formats that intrigue me- golden shovel, abcdarians, shardoma and ????, and writing for a week using each of them, or maybe choosing seven formats, and having a common topic, but writing about it in seven different ays. And then Amy Ludwig VanDerWater, over at THE POEM FARM said she was going to choose one topic, but write in a different format every day. And I thought, ok, maybe I could do that. But what topic would I choose? Friendship? Middle School? Dogs? Parenting? Hmmmm...
And then the universe moved again. Yesterday, in a random tweet, Franki Sibberson asked me for the link to "Confessions of a Reader," a poem I wrote a long, long time ago. And I'm thinking this weekend, about going back to school on Monday. And about my seventh grade study hall, which was pretty much a complete disaster the week before break. The idea of study hall is that kids read for 20- 25 minutes, and then they have 20 minutes to work on other homework. I've been teaching the class since mid-October. It was going pretty well, but then three or four weeks ago, the middle school team switched out about six kids, and somehow, I'm not quite sure why, our whole community fell apart, and now no one is wanting to read. And I've been thinking all break about how I could pull them back together and help them re-engage with books. I know it's about choice, and structure, and book talks, and lots of quick conferences, but man, oh man, has it been ugly the last couple of weeks. All I really want is for each of those kids to have "a reading life." To have books and authors they love, to use books as an escape and a solace, to see reading as a way to understand themselves, others and the world.
And so for April, I have decided that my theme will be "A Reading Life." I'm not quite sure what it will look like. Maybe I will do all free verse. Maybe I will follow some of Amy's formats. Maybe I won't write every day. We'll just have to see how it goes.
And for today, because I just chose this theme this morning, and have spent the last hour writing my introduction, and because it's Easter, and because it's Sunday, and I have to go to Colorado Springs, and I have a million things to do to get ready for work tomorrow, and my taxes still are not done and I promised myself I would do that before I went back to work, I'm going to pull a total cheater pants move, and use "Confessions of a Reader," the poem that helped me choose this theme, as my first poem. I promise I will write something new for tomorrow.
Jama Rattigan has compiled a list of lots of kid lit folks who are writing this month. Check it out here.
"Confessions of a Reader"
Stakes a claim
On a corner
Of the eight-foot window
In our living room.
Tightly placed spokes.
Dancing gown threads,
Would not tolerate
Such slovenly housekeeping.
She would get a broom
And knock down
This errant squatter’s palace.
I do not.
I am waiting for Charlotte
To leave a message.
published in All That Matters: What We Value in School and Beyond.
edited by Linda Rief and Maureen Barbieri