Some Questions

by Laura Gamache, TOPS K-8

Can you count syllables in lines of poetry, or find the most accurate descriptive word for your joy at smelling a hunk of ginger root? Do you think about Li Po and Tu Fu, that they were friends one thousand four hundred years ago? Do you wonder how Li Po’s Taoist philosophy affected his poems? Whether he and Tu Fu were competitive, a question one of my sixth grade students asked yesterday? Do you ponder why it is that their poems still sing to us? That we read “Night Thoughts While Traveling” and feel a pang for Confucian Tu Fu at the end of his life? Do you go out to find an English language version of the Tao Te Ching and discover the writer who made this version is the same man, Stephen Mitchell, who translated much of Pablo Neruda’s work?

Have you read Pablo Neruda’s odes, and borrowed Neruda’s method of exuberant hyperbolic metaphors to write your own? Do you know something of his life, his world travels, his fantastical houses full of his collections? Have you learned from a girl who raises her hand to tell you more than you knew of Neruda’s childhood as you are showing photos of figureheads and ships in bottles from a book on Neruda’s objects? Do you then have to run out and buy the book, THE DREAMER, which she, age eleven, has recommended?

Have you tried hard to come at the method of teaching the writing of the Persian/Urdu form the ghazal? Have you tried describing the whole poem as a Pez dispenser, each couplet as a complete and perfect Pez? Have you had a roomful of children born in the twenty-first century pick up this idea and feed it back to you, adding flavors and colors to the description until you and they are giddy with discovery and a little bit of silliness thrown in?

Have you been humbled by fifth graders who have no knowledge of Ezra Pound, but, naturally as breathing, absorb others’ poems, then turn to make their poems new and new and new?

In her “Recipe for Laughter,” Scout suggests we:

Cut a piece of Looney Toons or for a more spicy taste Dirty Jokes

In her poem, modeled on “Like You” by Roque Dalton, she says

Like you I love the aroma of coming home
And the warmth bear-hugging me.

In her “Like You” poem, Stella writes:

Like you, I like the way the bits
Of eraser scatter away like ash.

Another stanza in the same poem reads:

I believe we could run a marathon and
Not care who’s the turtle or the rabbit.

Cora, in her poem, “Dreams,” tells us:

Dreams are the ice cream sundae store
At the top of the steep hill.

In Jin Yang’s poem, “At Daybreak,”

Hundreds of dazzled starfish light before my eyes.

In his metaphorical “Mind” poem, Hao Peng writes:

My mind is a mystery
That can’t be solved.
It’s a fog, a mist,
A never-ending risk.

And in HIS “Mind” poem, Jonah says,

My mind is map of worlds.

Henry writes, in his poem, “Almost Seeing Gravity,”

The midsummer reminds me of starfishes                 
And light.

In “FSDNAA (Floating Starfishes Doing Nothing at All),” Duncan says:

The enormous lopsided starfishes
Were just floating
Simply willing to be
Lying in small pools of water
Underneath rocks
On beaches
Or being carried
By the waves.

In the poem he wrote about a poem he will one day write, Hao Peng promises:

The poem goes through fences
It’s full of suspense
My poem is a miracle

Do you get to nod your head yes, and yes, and yes as you move around the classroom reading miraculously wise new poems? I do!


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