Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Five Days In...

My teaching job offers me such wonderful opportunities to indulge my love for poetry--and my odd desire to talk about it. Talk about a wonderful way to kick off National Poetry Month: Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute has a 23-year history of putting on a Writers Symposium and bringing in some top-notch writers. Some garnered much fame after they visited our campus; some were already well-established. The plaque in E Building that holds the list of their names, and it's impressive.

This spring, we chose a poetry focus and it's lasting all month. We kicked off, though, with current NC poet laureate Cathy Smith Bowers and her friend and predecessor in the post, Kathryn Stripling Byer. In order to entice our students to attend, I'm using as a supplementary text The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat, edited by UNC's Michael McFee. Not only are Byer's poems included but Fred Chappell, James Applewhite, Robert Morgan, Heather Ross Miller, the late Reynolds Price and more, all NC poets.

My students are assigned to keep a chart of the poems they read during this unit in Lit, with an eye toward a formal essay on the works of one living poet (or only recently deceased) and an informal paper, one Carol Jago shared, her Goldilocks project--Find one poem that's too easy for you, one that's too hard, and one that's just right. I'm keeping my own chart and finding so many great poems. I've also read Tim Peeler's Checking Out, a collection of poems set in and around a local hotel where he once worked the night shift. Great character development!

I'm reading Bowers' Like Shining from Shook Foil, her latest poetry collection, which includes two poems I especially love, "Syntax" and "The Napkin."

The best part of the NPM celebration at school is the increased likelihood that others will have read the poems I have--or have heard them read by the poet.

Another exciting part of the celebration for me has been the chance to encourage others to write. I've visited the Early College high school located on our campus and presented poetry-writing workshops, and I've also taken part in a similar workshop for any of our college students interested in writing poetry.

I'm most pleased that after lots of years of talking about poetry, I'm right in the middle of a whirlwind of poets and readers, practicing what we preach.

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