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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Oliver’

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. She writes accessible, simple nature poetry. She recently published a new collection, A Thousand Mornings. When it came up on Amazon as a suggestion (how do they know me so well?), I had to buy it. This book was so special I had to go to the post office to pick it up. When I opened the package, I lifted the book to my cheek. It felt like silk. Seriously, soft and smooth like a silk blouse! Mary Oliver’s poetry is so clear that even elementary students can understand it. I wanted to share her with my students. Of course, first I let them feel the cover. They knew immediately that magical poetry lay within.

I read aloud Mary Oliver’s words, “This morning the beautiful white heron was floating along above the water.” My students know what this looks like, a common scene here in South Louisiana. I read a few more poems. But they were getting anxious.

“What are we going to do with the shells, Mrs. Simon?”

On the table, I had placed a plastic container of shells, real beach-collected shells from the storage closet. I dumped them out on the table with these instructions, “Find a shell that you like. Draw it slowly, paying attention to the details. Then write a poem.”

I played classical music and wrote along with my students. Some beautiful poetry emerged. Taking time to slow down, enjoy the beauty that nature creates, and to listen to simple true words, that is the joy of writing work.

My poem: Broken

My heart bubbles
like the shell in my hand
when air pours through
its tiny holes,

Shaped as a mountain
with jagged incuts
and paths of lined creation.

I am imperfect
battered by crashing waves like
this shell torn from the sea

collected by a child
who knows how to love
imperfection.

by Matthew (3rd grade)

I taste the sea in me,
the ocean of wonders I smell,
the bumpy texture sends chills down
my spine, the echo of the ocean awakens
me, I see the sea’s symbol,
it is in my possession,
shell

by Kylon (4th grade)

A spirit, a dead, lost spirit
a lost stray child, who cannot find her mother
no hope, no life, just darkness,
dark like a night sky with no stars,
a smooth seashell,
it’s washed up- the ocean didn’t want it,
but I did, and it’s safe with me.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Ever since this old oak fell more than a week ago, I knew it had a poem to give me. I have learned and continue to learn to wait for writing. First, I walked down to the empty lot where it lay and took pictures. I played with Instagram for the one here. Then I sat with a favorite poet, Mary Oliver. Mary doesn’t fail me. I felt like we were writing side by side. I opened her book, Red Bird, to the poem Night Herons, and one line jumped off the page, “what do we know/ except that death/ is so everywhere and so entire–” Using her form of four lines per stanza and borrowing this line, I wrote a poem about the tree.

An oak tree
fell in the night
while we were sleeping,
unknowing.

Its body broken
by invisible flames,
trunk separated
from leaves, from life.

Happy resurrection fern
clings, even as
clouds form
rain again.

This keeper of stories,
survivor of hurricanes,
fell in a summer storm,
just tired, I guess.

That was the end of growing
as we know it, yet
what do we know
except that death

is so everywhere and so entire–
culling and clearing,
sometimes taking
an old friend.

One strike, one boom,
and the lot fills up
with sprawling branches.
How long

will we walk by
and watch the decomposing?
How long until the chainsaw
destroys?

Until then, I will stay
pray to this sacred sculpture
and to its sculptor:
Rise and sow again.

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