Posted by: Tom Triumph | February 19, 2012

170. I am Waiting: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Reading poems out loud is an important part of making poetry relevant. Much of the damage the image of poetry suffers is at the hands of teachers who fear it, and fear how the students will react to it. Instead of grappling with real ideas, students are left with simplistic shape poems and rushed haikus. Poetry was meant to be wrestled with, and that requires engagement.


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By nature, middle school students are performers. They shout if you let them, and will take chances if they feel safe. Another entry is about popcorn reading, which has worked in my class to get the most reluctant readers to try a line or two.

I came across “I am Waiting” through the Poetry Foundation article “Ten Poems Students Love to Read Out Loud: How voice and attitude can change how we understand poetry” by Eileen Murphy. She lists nine other poems, all of which might fit your bill.

There’s some God stuff in here, which might frighten you off. As with some of the imagery and topics in the poems in this blog, know your community. While some of these may be classics, teachers have gotten in the soup for less.

That said, I don’t feel Ferlinghetti is criticizing religion, but how our search for it plays itself out in America. As I write this, Republican candidates are debating the moral fiber of America, each making the case how they will restore the church back into the state. Of course, each takes the high road, implying the other is a pretender. Republicans and politicians do not have a monopoly on this, either. Ferlinghetti is an observer of this. The lines he uses are those of the movements. He uses their words to highlight his search. What, really, is he waiting for? How does he engage the reader? In the end, is it blasphemy or another way of writing about hope?

These lines, for example, remind me of commercials for Applebees:

and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer

How blasphemous can that image be; it shines a bad light not on the faithful but those who use it for their own purposes. I find it all a reaffirmation of faith. Still, know your audience.

Each stanza does this. In the end, where do we stand? What are our beliefs? What are we waiting for, and do we already have it?

I Am Waiting
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier

and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

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Responses

  1. I like this poem it is nice


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