Valuing Simple Creative Time

Valuing Simple Creative Time: The Night Under My Wing

Last week, I had the privilege of spending two days with some 6th grade students, when I was hired through the Arts Council to do a creative writing program with them. In only two days, you can only do so much of a program. And also, in two days, you can do and see and feel so much.

It has been nine years since I was a full-time teacher in a K-12 classroom, and those nine years did not feel as if they had passed at all. There are still awesome teachers doing the work with few resources, too little time, too many arbitrary rules and too many students.

AND, there are still students who are our beloved human beings who want to be heard and seen or desperately want to not be seen or heard, who want to do the right thing, who have no frame of reference for the right thing, who are diverse and annoying and joyful and worthy of so much more than we can ever do for them.

We wrote poems about their hobbies and mixed those with words about flowers and we drew pictures and illustrated a N. Scott Momaday poem and wrote their own “Delight Song” poems. I have very few rules in these activities so no one broke them, and they created things that followed no rules I could have given anyway.

One boy took a brief line from Momaday’s poem and added another line and then created an entire-novel-length story in his head about what his illustration of it all meant. He was very serious, and so was I as I listened to him tell his story.

One girl wrote no words but drew a lovely dragon-type creature for me. I wrote on it, “This is lovely, and I would really like to see some of your words to go with it.” The next day, she added these words to it, “I am a dragon who hides the night under my wing.”

“That is awesome,” I told her and tried to hand the paper back to her. And she said, “No, it’s for you.”

It is now hanging next to my desk in the museum office. I could go on with other examples, but they all go to explain how important reading, writing, listening, sharing, and creating art and poetry are to us.

We must make time for these things. We must value them every day. Finally, I refuse to believe we can’t find more and better ways to do these things.

Events, Musings, Poems


EliotPaperIt is March, and the premiere of my one-woman poetry show Poem Life is fast approaching. Until then, I am going to post snippets of things that will be in the show. Here is the first one.

My senior paper submitted

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for

English IV

was turned in on March 10, 1980 to Mrs. Akers at Locust Grove High School. Mrs. Akers was a beloved teacher at LG High School for more years than anyone knows. My father was one of her students. LG folks had the experience of generations of their family being taught by her.

She taught Senior English, and when I was a child, the LG Schools Open House was a BIG DEAL. One of its highlights was visiting Mrs. Akers’ room where all the student shadow boxes would be on display. These were elaborately-made scenes from books the seniors had read. Paper-mache, woodworking, clay, painting, sculpture–all kinds of arts went into constructing these dioramas. I loved visiting her room every year to see them. When I was a senior, however, I copped out on all the artistry and picked a Zane Grey novel, bought some plastic cowboys and Indians and made a scene from it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even read the book. Anyway . . . Mrs. Akers

EliotPaper2_001I remember two things from her class: memorizing Macbeth’s tomorrow and tomorrow speech and diagramming sentences. Mrs. Akers rarely moved from her desk. She was as wide as she was tall, which was short, and her bosom rested on the desk. No one acted up in Mrs. Akers’ class, nor came in tardy, nor threw spit wads.

My encyclopedia-riddled term paper was about T. S. Eliot. I had been writing poetry since I was a child, but I wasn’t familiar with a lot of poets. Eliot was in all our anthologies, and I liked Prufrock because of its elements of doom and rhythm and snooty mermaids. I made an A on the paper and the comment on the cover sheet was “An interesting and most informative paper.” I find it funny that this description is a phrase I use as a teacher when I have nothing better to say. To say a paper is “interesting” is to say it bored the hell out of me but oh well, you tried.

There is nothing original in this paper: I avoided plagiarism at all costs to make it “interesting.” I “Ibid” all over the place. Young folks: Look it if up if that word throws you. There are unintentionally funny lines, such as this one about his wife, “She was clever, witty, vivacious, depressed, nervous, and a death-muse.” I also like this line, “If ordinary people couldn’t understand such writing, then it was too bad for them.” Ibid.

In Poem Life, (premiering March 21), I will devote a few minutes to reading selected portions of this essay while also playing the frame drum, which will add the appropriate note of seriousness to the affair. The last line of my 6-page essay reads, “Eliot, though often difficult, demands thoughtful study.” Ibid., p. 606.

Musings, Poems


"If smoking occurs during your stay"--don't you think that wording deserves a poem?
“If smoking occurs during your stay”–don’t you think that wording deserves a poem?

I am a thing-finder. I am a word-finder. I am a paper-finder. I cannot walk past something handwritten on a scrap of paper that is lying on the sidewalk or in the ditch or on the seat on the bus. I can’t remember not being a thing-finder. In things, I find poetry. Continue reading “Poetry-Finder”


Barbaric Yawp

A teacher friend of mine loves Walt Whitman’s work just like I do. She and her students regularly sound their “barbaric yawp” around the classroom and hallways. Unfortunately, as is the case in many schools, the administration does not appreciate nor understand poetic expression. She recently received this email from her principal: Continue reading “Barbaric Yawp”