Monday, January 12, 2015

Do What You Teach

What good is poetry? For one thing, it’s helped me process the transition I’ve been going through. A couple of months ago I was talking to my daughter about how the preparations for moving were going, and at the end of the conversation, she said, “Have you written a poem about that?” I hadn’t, and wasn’t sure I could at that point, but she proved to be the necessary prod to get me going. Here’s what I came up with:

Forgive me, friend,
if you are dying--
I am only moving.
But it feels like dying to the only adult life I have known
28 years of it
the only school I have ever taught at
the streets I waddled through pregnant
the parks my children played in
the place they met their mates.
Moving was something that I mentally assented to--
someday it would happen to me--
but really it only happened to other people.
Now it is happening to me.
In September, January seemed so far off
it might as well have been Pluto,
or Narnia.
At the end of November, as my house empties and boxes fill,
it takes on weight and texture,
this great change bearing down on me.
I trust there are good things waiting
in that new life,
but I can’t really imagine them.
This one has been good in many ways,
besides being the only one I’ve known.
But as the process of dying to this place 
Goes on, and on--
every day dominated by the logistics, 
the lasts, the boxes, the payment stops, the address changes--
I begin to long for the life without goodbyes,
the life of building, not shedding
the life of putting down roots, not pulling them up.
What I really long for is on the other side of true death,
and maybe each little death between now and then
is just a preparation:
anticipation of resurrection.
I am only moving.
Forgive me, friend,
if you are dying.
I am only taking lessons
in resurrection.

What did I learn? Nothing brand new, but reaffirmation:
  • Writing is significant because to articulate a thought is to increase its heft—in the ways it sticks in my mind, making me able to recall and reconsider it, and in the ways it then becomes part of a community discourse.
  • Writers need community. I would write less without those who encourage me to write, read my writing, and respond to it. (And it’s pretty amazing when your own children become part of that community.)
  • Teachers must be practitioners. When reading and writing are things I love and do, it’s so much easier to teach them. I’ve shared my own reading—what I enjoy, what I learn, and what I struggle with. I share my writing, in a way, every time I post a blog. But that’s only one genre of writing. I teach poetry. I write poetry. It’s important to me in several ways. So it’s time to share that slice of my practice as well.

Join my community. 

How are you a practitioner of what you teach? Who is in your community that encourages you, prods you, and responds to you as you practice?

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