“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
While the calendar may announce that it is spring, the weather in Upper Michigan has a different opinion. It has been a long winter and we will have extra days tacked to the end of our school year because we were plagued with ten snow days. While teenagers always seems to be exuberant and full of energy, there have been many days where you can feel an oppressive energy sweep over our entire building. As I type this I have to sigh that I am home on spring break because the snowbanks in our yard still range from three to ten feet.
This year we went from a six-hour schedule to a seven hours and as a result I was fortunate enough to be trusted with TWO sections of creative writing. While this class is usually a welcome relief to students, because of its unstructured nature and the freedom to express themselves, I have noticed that spring fever has even impacted my creative writers.
I looked forward to National Poetry Month as an opportunity to breathe some fresh air into our writing and I decided one day, completely drained by another snowstorm, that we would think positive and beckon spring weather with our poetry.
To get us started we used the concept of geese as a springboard for the musings in our journals. We discussed how we eagerly anticipated the sound of honking geese returning from southern locations to announce spring. I sought out and shared websites that explained the phenomenon of how geese fly in a V formation and how they take turns leading. We marveled over the fact that when one gets wounded or sick, other geese will help and fly close beside them (or even leave the formation to take cover together on the ground).
When I was in college at Marquette University I remember being moved by the beauty of Aldo Leopold‘s, A Sand County Almanac. Since we live in such a rural area my students can relate to his nature images. I love to bring passages of his lovely prose into my classes and on this particular day I shared a couple of passages about geese and birds.
“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”
― Aldo Leopold
“On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.”
― Aldo Leopold
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
― Aldo Leopold
We also read a few poems by Mary Oliver and were deeply moved by her poem,
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Using Leopold and Oliver as inspiration my students wrote their own poems. After the poems were written they added visual elements so I could hang the poems in the hallway outside of my door. As an educator, I think it is important to publish student work in a variety of ways in order share their work with their peers and school community. I want them to know that their voices are valued and that their words are potent. It makes me smile when I approach my classroom and see students, and even staff, stopped and transfixed by the luminous poems that my students have penned.
Here is a sampling of some of the poems that my students created:
I am so proud of my students and I love being able to share their work. I am thankful that together we share a passion for language and that each school day affords us the opportunity to fly in formation together and make time to write. While I have been savoring each moment of spring break, I miss my “kids” and I hope they are resting and will come back to school restored, refreshed, and ready to write. I cannot wait to celebrate National Poetry Month with my flock.