Thursday, May 7, 2009


"Poetry is a place 
we can go to 
for comfort, 
for celebration, 
when we're in love, 
when we're bereaved 
and sometimes for events 
that happen to us as a nation."

Carol Ann Duffey, Poet Laureate, Great Britain

I thought of this quote today, when Connie, my teaching partner told me a story about one of our fourth grade girls. M is a smart, take charge young woman, with potential oozing out of every pore. Like most of our kids, however, M has been through a lot, and as a result, can be one pretty tough cookie sometimes. 

Last week, M and the rest of her group spent three days with me while Connie worked on a "project" for our assessment department. I had taken my entire poetry collection to school for the month of April- serious and silly, nature and sports, classic and brand new. Connie's group and mine spent those three days wallowing in poetry and creating anthologies of favorite poems. 

One of the books I hauled into school was Cynthia Rylant's, GIVE ME GRACE: A CHILD'S DAYBOOK OF PRAYERS.  I love Cynthia Rylant, and I love that book, but I didn't see it as one that would be particularly appealing to this group of  kids. I didn't talk about GIVE ME GRACE, and to the best of my memory, didn't read from it. Even so, in that strange and magical way that happens when a kid connects with a book, M connected with GIVE ME GRACE. "Tuesday" was her favorite poem/prayer:


Teach me 

Faith and caring,

Teach me wisdom,

Teach me sharing,

Raise me up

and make me strong.

Be with me 

the whole day long.

She returned to the book each day, copied down "Tuesday" and two or three poems for her anthology, and then asked if she could borrow the book for a little while. I said sure, and then kind of of forgot about it. 

Today, Connie told me a story I will remember for a long time. Yesterday, after independent reading, the very volatile Miss M shared GIVE ME GRACE with her classmates, commenting, "This is my calming down book. When I am about to blow up, I read this book and it calms me down. You guys ought to try it." 

Poetry, as a "calming down" tool. Poetry as away to help this quick-tempered young woman soothe herself and make good choices. Poetry as a way to make a kid's world a more peaceful place.

Pretty powerful stuff, this poetry.



Laura Lynn Benson said...

I can so relate to M and wish I was as wise as she is. Sending you poetry blessings and much love...

Mary Lee said...

The right book at the right time. Thanks for sharing this moment of grace. You have changed M's life forever. (and even if it was by accident, I say IT COUNTS!!)

Karen said...

I absolutely love this anecdotal -- thanks for sharing. Poetry and words are so powerful. I'm thrilled that this poem spoke to M.