This post will serve many writing purposes today:
The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of a writing community.
Heidi Mordost has extended this invitation: This week for Poetry Friday, all who care to will post a favorite Billy Collins poem (or Billy-inspired original) in honor of the great man, who turns 75 on March 22.
I love the poetry of Billy Collins. I love the way he notices the poetic in the every day, and writes about it with such beautifully spare and concentrated attention. I love his wry sense of humor and the breezy way in which threads the serious and the sensual. He writes about cats and dogs, the heartbreak of 9/11, being an only child of aging parents, the surprise of Sandhill cranes in Nebraska, and all the other things poets touch upon: love, the death of love, and death itself. Collins’ poetry encompasses so much.
As a teacher who loves poetry and wants to grow that love in my students, I most appreciate the advice Billy Collins shares about the teaching of poetry – explicit and implicit. My favorite is this one, not because this is what I find students doing, but because it is what teachers do to students when we have them read and “analyze” poetry:
Introduction to Poetry
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.
I read this poem often, because I want to remember why we have Poetry Thursdays in my classroom: to “walk inside the poem’s room/and feel the walls for a light switch”. I want my students to savor the poet’s language and to allow their imaginations to wander through the poem and then through their own memories and thoughts. I want them to hold on to a poem or two long beyond their days in our classroom, because those poems touched them in some essential way, and they didn’t want to let go. I guess I live for this moment Billy Collins himself shared:
Happy Birthday, Billy Collins – thank you for your gifts of poetry, and your wise teaching advice.