88. Poet’s Work: Lorine Niedecker

I had never heard of Lorine Niedecker until I visited the blog I love to hate and found this video of Bill Murray reading poems for the workers that built Poets House. Here is the video of Murray reading:

He also reads the end of a Billy Collins poem, and some Emily Dickinson. I love Murray, and this is more sweet than inspiring, but it did introduce me to Niedecker. I will return to this site as there is a lot I think students will enjoy.

As to what to do with this….

Middle school is where they are most ideal, yet are asked to shed their childish dreams. They realize they will not be baseball stars and finally have to admit that, perhaps, they aren’t going to college. I came “down” from high school teaching and stayed because it felt like middle school students still had a shot; the die had not been cast. And I believe it.

So what is the difference between Niedecker and her grandfather? What, exactly, does he mean by “trade”? My father was much the same, and I got my teaching license even as I wished to just write. Do we dare to dream? And, if not, what’s the point. Have students fill in those gaps, and then have them think of how far they can go.

Then have them take a step further and dream how to do it.

Then have them take the first step that night, for homework.

Note that her poem cascades, but I cannot get her words to do it for me. Visit the link to her site above to see.

Poet’s Work
Lorine Niedecker

advised me:
Learn a trade

I learned
to sit at desk
and condense

No layoff
from this


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