220. Good Bones: Maggie Smith

What makes something go viral? It's a good question to ask your students.  If you ask them about "Literature with a capital 'L'" they won't know what you're talking about.  Classics?  Old books?  Books librarians shove in your hand, that have gold seals on them and are not good but good for you?  Personally, I... Continue Reading →


200. You Are Odysseus: Linda Pastan

Cultural currency is squat these days. You can't talk about misogyny and how we're taught cultural norms from media because no one knows the basic princess stories anymore (and that they, traditionally, always wait for Prince Charming to save the day--of course, boys and girls still carry around the traditional norms). Grimm's Fairy Tales are... Continue Reading →

195. Preliminary Report from the Committee on Appropriate Postures for the Suffering: Jon Davis

In her book "On Violence" the philosopher Hannah Arendt postulates that bureaucracies become the ideal birthplaces of violence towards others since they are defined as a "rule by no one" against whom to argue. I was thinking of this while sitting in a committee meeting talking about "Action Plans". Every three years our school writes... Continue Reading →


158: Constitution: Habib Jalib

I hate name poems, but when looking for a poem about the U.S. Constitution a number of people had asked for acrostic poems about it or the First Amendment. Some cynic wrote this: Confusingly formed Ostentatiously born Neanderthal even then Suspicious in form Trifling language used Insidiously abused Trampled and burned Undermined evolution Terribly archaic... Continue Reading →


156. Our Lady of Perpetual Help: April Lindner

A poetry pairing. This is from a section of the New York Times called "The Learning Network". There is some good stuff here, although the Times' lesson plans are a bit hit-or-miss. You can see the original, and access other lessons, here. Of Linder's poem, poet Ted Kooser writes, "I am especially fond of what... Continue Reading →


150. Chicago: Carl Sandburg

I love the first booming line: Hog Butcher to the World. This is the first poem I remember that wasn't a) cute, b) historically important, or c) I was supposed to like. It was in an anthology and the page opened and there it was. We were not assigned it--growing up in New England, the... Continue Reading →


148. Anne: Gerður Kristný

Iceland is the home of one Nobel Prize winner, Halldór Laxness, a prose writer whose most famous work in English is "The Atom Station" and his working of classic Icelandic sagas, but I decided on something more contemporary. Gerður Kristný is a young woman who has not broken much out of Iceland. Anne Frank is... Continue Reading →


147. What I Would Give: Rafael Campo

If you keep track of such things, you might notice that it has been awhile since the last post and this one. I am not inspired. In much of anything. The past six months have been listless, with my enjoying my own kids but little else. Numb. Not moribund, but that zest of a hopeful... Continue Reading →


144. Incident: Countee Cullen

This is a pretty blunt poem that says all that needs to be said. Use it when you are talking about the power each of us has to crush another person. My students don't realize, or much believe, that their negative connecting has any real power. When they do say something ("just a joke") I... Continue Reading →


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