Words from Walt

My first memories of Walt Whitman’s poetry are of when I took an American Lit class as an undergraduate. We spent the latter half of the course reading and discussing Whitman and Dickinson. I remember being underwhelmed by Dickinson (my appreciation and admiration of her work was slower to come) but I loved Whitman right from the start. I didn’t always know what was going on and I struggled through an analysis of “Scented Herbage of My Breast” for my final paper, but I loved his language, his long lines, his joy and I mean honestly, the guy had a killer look.

My favorite picture of Walt.

As I type these words, I realize that I am wrong about my memories of Whitman. When I was in sixth grade, I had to memorize “O’ Captain, My Captain” and then later I saw Dead Poets Society. I can’t recite the poem anymore. I was never good with memorization and I found that while I could memorize a poem or Shakespearean sonnet for an assignment, as soon as the pressure was off, the words vanished. However, I liked the poem and maybe that reinforced my enthusiasm nearly seven years later when we dove into Leaves of Grass in my American Lit class.

As an adult, a poet and an educator, what I love about Whitman, is that he’s still relevant. He still translates to America and he’s still pretty much got it nailed. I often tell my students that Whitman would be in love with the idea of community college because of its diversity, its opportunity and the idea that education and community are inextricably linked. Of course, they always adore him. I give them an assignment early on to go out and find Whitman in contemporary culture. They don’t have to look too hard. He’s in Levis commercials, candy boxes, interstate signs, whiskey, tobacco and the list goes on. But more important than his marketability, is the staying power of his poetry.

Another assignment I give my students is to rewrite Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” We look at Langston Hugh’s “I, Too, Sing America” as an example and talk about the relevance of the message that both Hughes and Whitman were trying to give voice to. They always love the poem and it always generates good discussion because it still speaks to the larger population.

 I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I, Too Sing America


I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Besides, They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

 I, too, am America.

Happy birthday Walt. For all you said and all you continue to say.

On My 31st Birthday My Family Gave to Me…

My mom painted these for me. I LOVE them.

RJ and I are going to the symphony tomorrow.

My grandparents sent me this neat assortment of silver. My favorite is the little teapot.

Pear earrings from my parents. I borrowed my mom’s when I got married and she decided I needed some of my own.

Napkin rings from my grandparents. I love the designs.

These are from my mother-in-law. Royale Bouquet smells divine.

My card from RJ. I don’t like hearts.

His cards are the best.

The Other Shoe

It’s been a busy week. I celebrated my 29th birthday last Tuesday. RJ and I went to Meridian, which is a very posh restaurant on the corner of Meridian and Westfield. We had a really nice meal and a quiet celebration. I don’t really have anything inspiring to say in regards to my birthday. I think some people find them cause for introspection but nothing really comes to mind this year.

National Poetry Month kicked off April 1st. We had the great opportunity of welcoming Kay Ryan through a teleconference at school. I’ve read a little of Ryan’s poetry but it was nice to hear her thoughts about writing and poetry. She shared the poem “The Other Shoe” and the students seemed to enjoy the experience.

The Other Shoe

Oh if it were only the other
shoe hanging
in space before
joining its mate.
if the undropped
didn’t congregate
with the undropped.
But nothing can
stop the mid-air
collision of the
unpaired above us
acquiring density
and weight. We
feel it accumulate.

Kay Ryan

Our yard is continuing to green. These past couple of day s the temperature has leveled out right around 70, so the buds are really bursting.

These next three pictures are just me having fun with my camera. I always thought it would be fun to be paid to take pictures all day. Maybe in my next life…

Monday (Ringing in 28 Years) Musings

Today I turn 28. I feel pretty good about it. I don’t really set goals in my head that are determined by age, but I think to have my Masters and Master in Fine Arts and a stable full time teaching position at this age is a good place to be. I also have a lot of great people in my life right now, so it feels good to be 28.

I took a quiz on Facebook to determine “which poet I am.” Yes, I know but these are the things one does when they don’t want to grade papers. Anyway. Turns out that I am channeling Sylvia Plath, so in honor of that and in honor of birthdays, here is your poem for this week:

Morning Song

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Sylvia Plath