Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Like many, many writers, I spend most of my time reading work by aspiring writers.  Heck, often they’re not even aspiring writers so much as aspiring-to-get-the-hell-out-of-high school-ers.

Much has been made of the toil of grading papers and I have no intention to add to it.  Suffice to say, it’s  an activity that tests one’s stamina and sense of self-worth, but, like all such activities, grading papers is not without its rewards. And teaching , though fraught with toil, is incredibly rewarding.  This is the time of year where we teachers start to see some payoff in all the work we’ve been doing with our students, especially the seniors.

Tuesday night was Poetry Night at the all boys’ prep school where I teach.  My colleagues read some moving and interesting works.  Students from the Writing Fellows class I’ve been working with all year read their own stuff, and many guys in the boarding community came of their own accord and shared their work.  (We even had a young lady from the girls’ school deliver a rap about the Israli-Palestinian conflict).   The evening reminded me of the vitality of poetry.  The poems covered topics on everything from ancient Greece, to picking up girls, to death, to Duck Day, to walking goldfish (that was mine). The audience was engaged and receptive.  My friend, Sara Coffman read some pieces and gave a short, poignant lecture on the meaning and importance of poetry.

The best part of the evening, however, was watching the teenagers take the podium and read.  It’s easy for me to see students as vessels to be filled with knowledge, difficult to always remember the rich tapestry of their lives beyond the classroom. But poetry brings it all to light.  In fact, we had so much fun that Sara and I stayed behind with about a half dozen boys, eating cupcakes and talking about literature and movies. It was the type of night that really only comes toward the end of a school year, when much of the hard work is done, but the frenetic busy-ness of exams is not yet upon us.

And now, in honor of my students, who I really, really have enjoyed this year, some of my favorite pieces of student literary work from 2010-11.  I got permission from each boy to post his stuff, but I am leaving the last names off to protect their identity. I’m very proud of them, not just for what they’ve written, but for who they are.

Silly Me

I saw a bird

The other day

At least I think I did

I told my friend

About the bird

He called me an Idiot

“There are no birds

That live ’round here”

He said condescendingly

He told his friends

And his friends laughed

As they told me I was wrong

There was no bird

They convinced me;

Birds do not live around here

I thought I saw

A blue bird once,

But now I’m not so sure

– -Trace, 12th Grade



“An abnormal, persistent fear of being pursued by timber wolves around a kitchen table while wearing socks on a newly waxed floor” –Gary Larson

The wolves from which woods did come,

And entrench themselves within my home.

There nary is a way to flee from,

Their gnashing teeth and roaring foam.

Round and Round I start to run

And round my table they did chase.

My pace increases lest I’m done.

On and on in our deadly race,

How did these events transpire?

In only my socks I do tread.

My situation appears quite dire.

O the torment, terror, and dread.

On the wax my feet won’t grip,

My fear is great; I will slip.

–Avery, 12th Grade

2 A.M.

We ate a meal in a city diner.

I had coffee – black – and bitter.

You never finished your meals.

I lit a cigar once you left.

I wished to sear myself,

But that too would leave a scar.

–Banks, 12th Grade

I would never tell you,

but you are the shock of red flowers on green grass,

the warm grass on my skin,

and the green leaves waving in salute.

You are the coolness of a low stone wall,

the shadows playing on the ground,

and the low-laying scent of Asian cuisine.

Unfortunately, you soon become

the dull hum of car engines,

The smell of damp stone and the taste of aphids,

the sound of chattering people and the word toque.

Always, though, you will be

a blue bike at rest on Baker Lane formally Baxter Wynd,

the woman hopping to put back on her shoe,

the slight pressure of the wind on my face,

and a short red skirt on the move.

–David, 12th Grade


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This week is guaranteed to go by quickly as every day is filled with some sort of literary event, including my own reading on April 15 at Winder Binder/A Novel Idea on the North Shore in Chattanooga.

In honor of a week that’s certain to be as glorious as it is exhausting, I will be posting an excerpt or short work by each author I plan on seeing during the week.

I’m starting with Mr. Bill Brown.  Brown will be reading as part of a group of Southern poets at 2 p.m., Sunday April 17, at Winder Binder/A Novel Idea.

Mr. Brown was my creative writing and English teacher for two years at Hume-F0gg High School in Nashville. I have had many teachers and professors who have made it possible for me to be where I am today in my writing, but Mr. Brown was the first to show me what words can really do – not just his, but mine. As I’ve been reconnected with him professionally over the past few years, I’ve been struck by how much his poetry and ways of seeing influenced my own work.  Now, for your reading pleasure, two poems by Bill Brown.  If you like them, for pete’s sake, buy one of his books. You won’t be disappointed.

What the Night Told Me

The owl and whipporwill know this well

that while the world sleeps, earth

still swings around the sun

the sun in its slow death

swirls a broader arc

and light rushes toward

the red fringe of something

and the moon for which they sing

drags each sea with a whip

Weasel and snake know this well

that rock and limb do not reveal

their shadow in the night

the warm blood of a rat

can be sensed without

the distraction of light

a prey’s shriek is swallowed by darkness

only man clutches his mate

when the talons of owl surprise

the silent rabbit, its scream

does not keep the raccoon

from watching that great horned

drag its soft catch across the sky

Worms and maggots know this well

that rot feeds on darkness

the source of all light

is decay, the cool glow

of foxfire thrives on dead wood

polished bones glare at night

and only reflect

what they cannot keep.

from What the Night Told Me, Copyright 1993, Bucksnort Press

Okay, now one from his latest book The News Inside, which is currently available on amazon.com

The Melting

There should be hope in the leaves’ first turning –

summer green fringed gold and crimson, webbed

hands reaching out against the curtain’s blue.

Winter and what it takes from the heart

is almost worth it. Year by blessed year,

in the shortened days, something is stolen

that cannot be reclaimed – a swelling in the chest

when night comes soon. At a certain age

a man takes a season’s beginnings, the small

beauties – frozen rings on creek rocks,

the first skein of ice in the horse trough.

He holds it to the morning sun and it burns

his palm as it drips through his fingers.

Each year he grips it tighter

to see his face melt in the fire.

from The News Inside, Copyright 2010, Iris Press

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