To celebrate World Poetry Day, Mr Blair Mahoney talked about “how to read a poem” today as part of our Ten Minute Tuesdays series at recess.
He started with the poem “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins:
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Mr Mahoney encouraged us to enjoy the poem without having to understand all of it.
“The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
To Christ our Lord
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
Mr Mahoney read “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn after he talked about poems sometimes having personal meaning for people at different times of their lives.
Children under, say, ten, shouldn’t know
that the universe is ever-expanding,
inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies
swallowed by galaxies, whole
solar systems collapsing, all of it
acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning
the rules of cartoon animation,
that if a man draws a door on a rock
only he can pass through it.
Anyone else who tries
will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds
should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,
ships going down—earthbound, tangible
where they can be heroes. You can run
back into a burning house, sinking ships
have lifeboats, the trucks will come
with their ladders, if you jump
you will be saved. A child
places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,
& drives across a city of sand. She knows
the exact spot it will skid, at which point
the bridge will give, who will swim to safety
& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn
that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff
he will not fall
until he notices his mistake.
After sharing some tips for reading poetry out loud, Mr Mahoney read out “In the Park” by Gwen Harwood, demonstrating paying attention to punctuation and run-on sentences.
She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt
Someone she loved once passed by – too lateto feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon…”but for the grace of God…”They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive, ”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”
Thanks to Mr Mahoney for his engaging session and expertise. Thanks to all who came; I’m sure you got the most out of ten minutes of your recess on World Poetry Day.