Teaching Birdsong

When I was in college, one of the English students wrote a thesis (I don’t remember whether master’s thesis or dissertation) in which he identified the various birds referred to in the poetry of, possibly, Whitman.  It could have been Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I’m not sure. What I do remember is that all…

No One Belongs Here More Than You

This powerful piece was written by my daughter:   No One Belongs Here More Than You   Full disclosure, I must confess that I stole the title of my speech from a book written by Miranda July. It was while walking in a bookstore that I saw the bold, black letters on a bright canary…

Poetry for change

Can poetry change the world?  Some think so, other not.  We don’t read too much of it anymore, although performing it is resurging.  We know some people are affected.  We know others are not.  Yet poets are jailed for writing it.  Someone must fear poetry. Having joined 100 Thousand Poets for Change on Facebook a…

My Grandmother and the Moon

My grandmother never believed that humans had landed on the moon.  Growing up a farmer’s daughter in Latvia, her views on life and reality reflected a previous era.   After losing everything when the Russians invaded Latvia, she had to adapt to a radically different lifestyle in the U.S.  An unknown language and a different culture…

Silenced

How do we write when we feel that words are not adequate?  What is it really, that words can do when we feel the pain is too much?  Then the words slip off somewhere, as if in a cloud far away.  They cannot hug or sustain.  They will not bring a casserole.  They must hover…

Coming to America

We arrive in Comstock, Michigan, where my aunt and uncle live already.  It takes some maneuvering since the taxi driver thinks my mother is saying Coloma and keeps trying to take us there instead. I don’t remember the arrival, but do remember the loneliness of the journey.  I wandered the ship alone, because both my…

Teaching Differently

I like to start a class with music.  It frames what is about to happen in a way that students are not used to.  Disruption of prior expectations.  I do this because too many students have been trained and not educated.  Becoming educated means becoming a seeker.  So many students are running about wildly seeking…

Anger Is Not Hatred

Anger can be useful if it leads to right action.  That means that we should be angry about injustice, violence, murder, torture, and harm done to others.  Such anger should spur us to some kind of action, whether speech, petitioning, marching, sit-ins, or other means of public demonstration and persuasion. Society is like an elephant…

Writing Dreams

Do you ever write down your dreams?  Those that you’ve seen the night before?  I keep a dream journal and write in it when I remember to.  Or when I actually remember my dreams.  This writing feels like a resource for my poetry.  Although I rarely reread my dream journals, they show me patterns of…

We Were Talking

We were talking yesterday.  We don’t know each other’s names.  We were talking about everything.  Our hair.  Racism.  How the internet makes things visible.  We were both in the waiting room.  Waiting for our daughters.  We were talking about menopause and hot flashes.  We were talking about traveling art museums.  She will create one and…

Starting Out

Beginnings are hard.  Especially when delving into the new.  Once started, things will progress.  And we usually can’t take them back.  Especially when writing.  Then, things seem very fixed, thus, unchangeable.  Yet words on a page mutate over time.  Just like living organisms.  I write daily, with rare exceptions. Teaching is not easy for me. …