I know I am home. Today when, at lunch, a table full of my colleagues, my friends, spent our time voluntarily making plans for celebration of National Poetry Month, I knew I was with my people. I do my best each spring to synchronize my lit class syllabus with the calendar as well, introducing poetry just past mid-April, hoping that by the time April Fool's Day rolls around, I've managed to light a spark or two at least.
Today was that day. Never do those fifty minutes of class time fly faster than when I'm teaching poetry. Even without the bell, I know when my time's nearly up by the rustle as obvious as hymn books scraping out of the racks as the preacher winds down his sermon and offer the altar call. I want to say, "Oh, sit back down. Let's blow off your math class today and just talk poetry." I've had wonderful teachers who loved poetry and passed that love on to me. I've also had teachers who firmly believed they held the answer key to all of the literary canon. For Mrs. Hopper, my fifth and sixth grade teacher, I am grateful for her willingness time and again to read to use Longfellow's "Skipper Ireson's Ride."
My family also passed along a love for poetry--nothing over the top. We just managed to be surrounded by it--Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, "The Duel"--the dreadful tale of the gingham dog and the callico cat, "Abou Ben Adhem" ("may his tribe increase"). Since Daddy's still preaching, he'll occasionally call and ask me to help him find a particular poem that's on his mind. I feel sure, too, that with a little prodding, he can still quote the last stanza of "Thanatopsis."
This month, I will keep reading as voraciously as ever, but I will be deliberately reading poetry. I have a backlog of chapbooks of friends and of friends I've never exactly met. That's where I intend to start. I'll be tuning in and sharing some of the best.