Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Back to School

I didn't sleep a wink last night. That's because today is the first day of school. Even after all these years, I still get the first day jitters. I toss and turn thinking about what I'll wear, what my students will be like, and how that first meeting will go. I still get excited about school and all the great things I have to look forward to each year. Last night I imagined a can of talking pencils instucting the rest of the school supplies in their duties. (Yes, that was strange.)

I love school, always have and always will. I still love shopping for school supplies. One of my favorite things to do on the first day was to choose a desk in the front row so that I could be the first person to breathe in the smell of freshly minted ditto pages. If I close my eyes I can almost feel the damp pages and smell the purple ink. So, in honor of my first day back, and for all the first days still yet to to be celebrated, let's write this week in honor of school.

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

**Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Physics

    My friend teaches physics,
    writes his lesson plan to Led Zeppelin,
    his tests to the Rolling Stones.
    What next—finals to Cream?
    I cannot write even so small a piece
    as a single poem
    with rock standards blaring away,
    or I want to get up and dance.
    There has to be a physics answer,
    something to do with lights,
    with optics, with the speed of sound.

    c Jane Yolen

    Hope this formats!

  2. When I was just six, my family moved from Washington State to California, and before school started we visited San Francisco, did it up royal, like the country-bumpkin tourists we were. During our afternoon in Chinatown, I saw a pencil box which mesmerized me and I bought it. That pencil box represented my new life - California, San Francisco, First Grade - the whole big wide world opening up to me. Here's a poem I wrote about that pencil box - it's not new, so I didn't stretch, so apologies. I've had a busy week with student work, but I wanted to share:

    Pencil Box

    I put four bits on the counter
    and the box was mine.
    Six yellow pencils fit there
    side by side, I was perfectly addled,
    I was a goner – even before I knew
    the alphabet, I knew its cedar perfume –

    I flew over the high-humped bridge
    painted on the top, over the willow,
    the m-stroke for a bird, everything
    was suggestion then, before
    the putting on of too fine a point.
    People expected me to come

    to my senses, save the change
    in my burning pockets, after all
    the box was wooden, cheap
    Chinatown, but half a dollar
    went a long way
    toward heaven when heaven was closer.

  3. I have just now bumped into Poetry Friday and via that, you. And after a rumpled night with a feverish child, poetry seemed like fresh sheets.

    But I am very new to this and there are lots of wrinkles. I am nonetheless going to offer this early morning scrawl, because I have promised myself a year of courage. And the year begins now:

    January 1 always confounds me.
    New year? Why? There is no hinge,
    No turning, no change.
    Selfish Janus, playing both sides.
    Those arbitrary, arrogant Romans might
    be satisfied but I know better.

    The year begins now.
    Summer browns and wilts and finally
    Surrenders its might.
    We shake it off like a dog does a bath,
    drops spattering the sidewalk
    landing all around, the dog already running.

    This is how it begins.
    Three fresh pencils in a case.
    An impatient marble notebook.
    New shoes. Packed lunch.
    Kettle-drum heart.
    And a thousand snail trails like silver arrows
    Pointing the way from summer
    To school.

  4. Happy back to school for everyone! The kids around here are going back next week. I can't wait for the library, where I work, to settle back down after the busy, busy, busy, summer we've had this year.

    Here's a senryu:

    nearly sixty
    still thinking the year
    runs september to june

    Did I say how busy we were this summer?

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  6. Oooo...I love this, Laura!

  7. Oh, Laura, that's WONDERFUL! and applause to Jane, Francesca (yes to courage) and Diane, too. Nicely done, and Happy New Year to us all.

  8. Thank you, everyone, for these poems. They remind me what a magical time of year this is for all of us: child, parent, teacher. Fresh starts for all...

    Please Bring:

    One guinea pig
    A poem each day
    Books about oceans
    Time just to play
    A listening ear

    (I made a supply list
    for teacher this year.)

    -Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

  9. Tricia,

    I HATED elementary school. I attended a strict parochial school in Massachusetts in the 1950s. We had about 50 students in a class. I became a school phobic in first grade. I can still recall refusing to get on the school bus a couple of times.

    The "back to school" poem I'm working on is a dark one indeed. Not sure I'll post it at Wild Rose Reader or Blue Rose Girls. I'll send you the link if I do decide to post it on Friday.

  10. I have a double-header for you this week: a new poem, Higher Text, and an old one, Balloons

  11. I LOVE these poems.Thought I'd add an old one of mine since it is one of those I am fondest of:

    Crayons: A Rainbow Poem

    This box contains the wash of blue sky,
    spikes of green spring,
    a circle of yellow sun,
    triangle flames of orange and red.

    It has the lime caterpillar inching on a brown branch,
    the shadow black in the center of a grove of trees.

    It holds my pink
    and your chocolate
    and her burnt sienna
    and his ivory skin.

    In it are all the colors of the world.


    c Jane Yolen, all rights reserved

  12. Oh, more delicious school poems! Amy, love that guinea pig and book about oceans, and, Jane, that wash of sky, those spikes of spring...

    Elaine, I can't wait to read your dark elementary school poem. The dark side is almost always the interesting one (or maybe that's just my morbidity).

    What a great bunch this week. Tiel, I'll head over to your blog to read yours, too.

  13. Tricia,

    I love the Poetry Stretch contributions this week! Here's the URL of my "dark" poem about parochial school in the 1950s:

  14. These are fabulous! Here's mine:

    New books
    Coat hooks
    Pencils, sharp
    Squeaky chairs
    Many stairs
    Milk box
    Itchy socks
    New dress
    White shoes
    Two by twos
    Sleepy eyes
    Book bag
    Pledge to flag
    Small snacks
    Smell of ink
    Classroom sink
    Spelling list
    Clenched in fist
    Lunchroom fray
    Plastic tray
    Chef’s surprise
    No more fries
    Gym class
    Balls to pass
    Math team
    Day dream
    Chalk dust
    Homework – must
    Bell rings
    Gather things
    Home we wend
    Summer’s end

  15. Tricia--I still say: collect these in an anthology. They are stunning.


  16. This is about the trauma of having a health-food mama:

    Sack Lunch

    Turkey sandwich on whole wheat,
    not Wonder Bread to make
    into perfect white pills.
    The lettuce isn't crunchy,
    it's dark green like algae,
    an actual leaf.
    My apple won't shine—
    Mom took the shine off,
    she calls it wax. My carrots
    aren't orange bullets,
    they're pick-up sticks cut
    from skinny fern-top roots.
    When I begged for dessert,
    she said, "That's the apple."
    No chips in a foil bag
    with screaming letters
    and a neon cheetah,
    no goopy-hearted Twinkie
    hugged by sweet yellow cake.
    "Healthy food tastes better,"
    Mom told me. But I ask,
    I ask and I ask.
    No one wants to trade.

    --Kate Coombs

  17. P.S. I loved everybody's poems! Laura, your two lines "Goodbye wander/Hello,stay" induce goose pimples, they're so perfect. And Francesca's snail-trail arrows are eerie and poignant and true.

  18. Hope the first day of school went well for you. I don't think you'd be *human* if you didn't get nervous.

  19. The main item middle school students want for back-to-school is the latest sneakers. I posted this poem on my blog last week, but made a few changes.

    Last Year’s Sneakers

    Lie on the bedroom floor
    their smooth white skin
    scuffed by time—
    neon tangerine laces
    now pale apricot
    once unyielding
    now weak and worn

    Last year’s sneakers
    lie on the bedroom floor
    their replacements
    unboxed, laced up
    ready to run

    Last year’s sneakers
    lie on the bedroom floor
    tongues hanging out
    nothing to prove
    ready to rest