Poetry Friday:Marching Through a Novel by John Updike

Poetry Friday is hosted by Margaret Simon @  Reflections on the Teche

Image result for books

We’ve just begun our last round of book clubs in our sixth grade year.  Usually, our book club rounds follow genre studies, with a read aloud to analyze the structure and characteristics of that particular genre.  But this year, my students asked if they could close the year with  whatever genre they wanted, which sounded like an excellent idea to me.  Book groups and partnerships soon formed around every genre in our classroom library, from historical fiction to dystopian to realistic fiction.

When we gathered on our reading rug to plan our meeting dates, one student remarked at this range of books, which prompted another to ask, “how do they do this? The authors, how do they keep coming up with so many different types of stories and characters?”  This , of course, led to a high spirited discussion about imagination and craft and topics, and how writers pick and choose what they want to write about and how they write it.   Authors, it was decided, were “imagination magicians”…a term I instantly loved, and intend to use in my teaching life.

Here’s one of those imagination magicians, telling us something about his process:

Marching Through a Novel by  John Updike

Each morning my characters
greet me with misty faces
willing, though chilled, to muster
for another day’s progress
through dazzling quicksand,
the march of blank paper.
With instant obedience
they change clothes and mannerisms,
drop a speech impediment,
develop a motive backwards
to suit the deed’s done.
They extend skeletal arms
for the handcuffs of contrivance,
slog through docilely
maneuvers of coincidence,
look toward me hopefully,
their general and quartermaster,
for a clearer face, a bigger heart.
I do what l can for them,
but it is not enough.
Forward is my order,
though their bandages unravel
and some have no backbones
and some turn traitor
like heads with two faces
and some fall forgotten
in the trench work of loose threads,
poor puffs of cartoon flak.
Forward. Believe me, I love them
though I march them to finish them off.

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10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:Marching Through a Novel by John Updike

  1. “Imagination Magicians!” Indeed a wonderful term. Love this poem that takes us into the mind of John Updike as he marches his characters forward. Thanks for joining PF today.

  2. Wonderful students to create “imagination magicians”, Tara. I love that you found a poem to connect it for your students. “I do what l can for them”. Happy Reading! I hope you’ll find a way to share a list of the titles they chose.

  3. What a fun wrap up to the year! Your class sounds amazing! What a wonderful way to think of writers…as magicians of the imagination – “imagination magicians”!

  4. This year’s class was not the right class for book clubs. Looking forward to those conversations next year!

    Love Updike’s insight into his process and relationship with his characters!

  5. Imagination magicians indeed! Love your students. Like Linda, I’m looking forward to a future post that includes the titles and of course, some rice krispy treats too! The Updike poem is a new one for me. Makes me happy to just read the words in a novel and not be writing them. Happy long weekend, my friend.

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