Sunday, the Week Behind, the One Ahead

I am in the midst of a big push with my work in schools, adjusting the other elements of my work to my teaching and travel schedule, striving to finish up all the back log of pending projects one at a time until I am current and planning ahead for what is next. This is the goal of my year ahead, to achieve this clearing of the slate and creating new goals for my future.

I have the honor of this work as a poet and teaching artist. In all honesty, I am rather amazed that I am where I am, living my prime identity as my profession as well as foundation. It is not an avocation; I am and always have been a poet. The Journey of Return is complete and I am so very grateful, if not astounded.

In classrooms, I witness amazing and sometimes confounding things. There are miracles every day and it is a gift to receive the moments with students and teachers that are presented to me to appreciate. The outcome of any lesson or activity can never be fully anticipated and we do not, or should not, underestimate the power of art, the power of language, and the human spirit. We will always be surprised as we teach. And we are always able to marvel at the power of learning and the teachable moment. We also are strongest when we are willing to learn ourselves.

And we teach what we want to know. I have always been confused by those who claim that teaching (particularly as a teaching artist in K-12 education) detracts from their art, or somehow distorts, dilutes their own aesthetic or integrity. I find just the opposite. By having to explain and impart the elements of my art form, poetry, to hundreds or thousands of other human beings, be they 6 years old or 70, I am articulating my own poetic viewpoint to others in the hopes of sharing the perspective to show ways for the students to amplify their own efforts in writing. In that telling, I understand my own relationship with the craft more and more. 

I anticipate that there will always be a question that causes me to stop and consider. There are challenges to my premise and I find the need to make the argument. But mostly, it is about enthusiasm, the transfer in energy that causes momentum in the wonder and participation of a roomful of 4th graders or an adult community program intro to poetry class.

It is just a few weeks before Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy, & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 2011) is back from the printers. My creative partner and co-author, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and I are planning book launches in Chicago, New York, and Syracuse to present our premise to our colleagues and communities of writers, educators, and artists. It is exciting that, after years of thinking, planning, noting, negotiating, drafting, honing and revising, cutting, waiting, pushing, it is nearly done. Just a few days and the cycle of creation that any book entails will be complete. Soon we will have it in hand and will be sharing it with others.

I am looking forward to all the opportunities that will present themselves through the exchange that the book Quraysh and I have created will initiate, if we meet our goals with the project. We have stated our individual views of poetry and learning, our shared pedagogy and philosophy, even some of our politic, with the intention of offering perspectives that help any teacher or writer in their own teaching practice. Quraysh and I both love poetry and we love to teach. This book would not have been what it is if either of us had attempted it on our own, something we both reminded ourselves of regularly throughout the creative process.

We are proud of what Our Difficult Sunlight has shone itself to be. We are looking forward to the events and in-service workshops that we are planning now to support the book. We are hoping that we will have books in hand at the AWP conference in a couple of weeks. At the Book Fair, find information at the Writers in the Schools Alliance table. Copies will be for sale at the booth that Comstock Review will share with three other organizations from Central/Upstate New York:  Syracuse’s Downtown Writer’s Center, Stone Canoe, and from Rochester, Writers and Books.

Quraysh and I are presenting a panel, “The Youth Voice Amplified: Poetry and Social Justice in Classroom and Community,” Saturday at 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. I am also joining a panel sponsored by the Writers in the Schools Alliance on Thursday – 3:00 p.m., titled “A Classroom as Big as the World.”

There will be more announcements. For now, I am still marveling at all the students I have spent the past few weeks with and prepping for the week ahead. More about that as well. I pledge to be more proactive with my posts. There is so much to convey. Thanks for reading and stay warm. Now time for more football, a sport I am finally coming to understand. Happy Sunday and playoffs.

Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.

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