Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Yesterday's long rain was dank and raw but it still did good work, greening the grass, swelling the tree buds. Midday I walked out into the garden and saw that pea shoots were finally pushing through the soil. Now the last heavy-headed daffodils are beginning to open, and a few violets are unfolding in the grass. It might be possible to hang sheets on the line today. It might be possible to plant a few more seeds.

I spent most of the rainy day working on class plans, but I also did a better thing: I started a new poem--and so today I have two embryos (this poem and the essay I began 10 days ago) to cogitate over and fiddle with. I like the dangling prepositions in that last sentence; they replicate the state of my writing mind . . . direction without detail, sound without substance. I wonder is the house where I am living.

My friend Ruth wrote to tell me she has been teaching a Tu Fu poem to kindergartners. "It is XXVII, 'Far Up the River.'  Little Fiona, an ethereal creature with a very pronounced lisp, suddenly said, 'The words are just floating like a river. They are so pretty, we could dance to them.'"

The words are floating just like a river.

Last week, I taught kindergartners too. This is the poem the children wrote together:
White clouds are moving in the sky
and the sun is shining like a big fire.
In the blue sky the hawk leaves his wings still
and then flaps them again.
A huge straight oak is budding.
My friend is swinging.
i hear laughing, squeaking, cars going by.
Ants are crawling in the short green grass, eating crumbs.
Having just read a Nikki Giovanni poem with me, they were very firm about the importance of keeping the i lowercased.

And the hawk description--they spent so much time hunting for words to describe the movement of its wings. To sit back and let that happen is one of the things I have learned about working with very young students. It is always, always tempting to put words into their mouths. And the problem is that they usually let us do it.


Ruth said...

I am going to share the poem that "your" students wrote with mine. They love to read other children's work. We've been responding to Frost's The Pasture and wrote about I am going out to __________. I shan't be gone long, you come too. How correct you are about the urge to provide the words.
Can't wait to see you soon.

Ruth said...

I am curious which poem of Nikki's you used.

Dawn Potter said...

The title is "Winter Poem," and with young kids I usually write it out on chart paper line by line so that they can predict what words might come next. I like this poem because it leads the kids through the idea of transformation in a way that seems recognizable to them: they know that winter leads to spring, that snow and rain are related, that a snowball melts if you squeeze it; and Giovanni uses those "science facts" as the structure of her imaginative link between the speaker and a flower.

Ruth said...

I thought that might be the one. It seemed to lead to the poem you all creatted. Thank you