The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long.
When I was 18 and in my first semester of college, I came across a beautiful short poem by Ernest Dowson:
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
This simple poem has a long Latin title, Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam. It’s a rough translation of the Horace quote above about how fleeting life is.
Something about the poem captured the wistfulness I was feeling but couldn’t quite name. I had said goodbye to friends from high school and moved 400 miles from home. I was making new friends, but part of me was already a little sad knowing I would say goodbye to them someday too. When I discovered that poem, I immediately plunked myself down amid the dusty stacks in the Michigan State University library and memorized it.The poem has stayed with me for over 40 years, the only poem I’ve ever memorized. After a visit from a friend or a holiday with family, I sometimes recite the stanzas quietly to myself. They are an incantation to be grateful for the good times, to savor them, because they will not last forever. They are a reminder that the strongest negative emotions come because I care passionately about others, and even those passions will not last forever.Once you’ve had that experience of a poem that goes like a thunderbolt through you, you want to look for the lightning over and over again. The difference between teachers who see poetry instruction as a chore and those who view it as a passion probably comes down to that. You’ve either had that lightning strike, or you haven’t.This week we look at how to spark a love of poetry in classrooms. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
Poetry writing always has the potential to spark some magic in students. Christy Rush-Levine finds this magic requires a few conditions to be in place first in her middle school classroom.
Shirl McPhillips shares her favorite resources for sharing a love of poetry with students all year long.
Emily Meixner reflects on how her son fell in love with poetry as a five-year-old and out of love by middle school. She works with young teachers to brainstorm ways to keep a love of poetry alive in children.
One of our favorite resources on the web for fostering a love of poetry is the Poetry Foundation’s Learning Lab. This comprehensive free resource includes articles on poetry and about poets, poems, essays on poetic theory, and a glossary of poetic terms.
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Tara Barnett and Kate Mills introduce their middle school students to pastiche, a technique of mimicking the craft of favorite poems and poets.
Middle schoolers and kindergartners forge friendships at Katherine Sokolowski’s school through a sweet poetry writing and sharing project.
In an encore video, Katherine’s student Estelle shares a poem she has written about lost friendship. She captures the fickle nature of fifth-grade relationships among girls.
Stella Villalba explains why focusing on rhyming words is crucial for young English language learners.
Lead Literacy now has a new home as the Leaders Lounge at Choice Literacy. We’ll be posting the new content updates here in the Leaders Lounge section of the Big Fresh newsletter.
Literacy can be seen as a “curricular bully” by science and math teachers, taking over the curriculum and many professional development sessions. Suzy Kaback faces that challenge when she adds poetry writing and visual arts to a session for STEM educators.
In this video, Tammy Mulligan leads a demonstration small group with sixth graders who are reading novels in verse. The video includes a prebrief and debrief with the teacher.
The book Teaching with Fire is a wonderful resource for poems to read at professional development sessions. You can browse poems from the book about cherishing the work of teachers at this link.
If you’re looking for a fun, gateway poetry writing form to try with teachers, it’s hard to beat haiku. Amy Losak shares a couple of haiku that could work well in classrooms or teacher workshops.
Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.
That’s all for this week!