THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Friday, July 23, 2010

Poetry Friday: 50 State Tour Visits Washington

Welcome back to our protracted tour of the 50 states' poets laureates. I wish I had better news from the west coast...

Washington State was 42nd to join the union. It was also a latecomer to poets laureate. The position was signed into law in 2007. Governor Chris Gregoire named poet Sam Green to a two year term.

Unfortunately, the position is now "temporarily suspended."

From what I could gather online, people argued that poetry is a luxury. Who wants to pay a poet's travel expenses and stipend when there's a recession going on? With money tight, sparing cash for a poet to visit schools and community centers is a tough sell.

Today, I'm sharing a poem by Sam Green about the act of writing poetry.


If it was hard, physical (dare I say taxing?) work, would you still do it?

If You Had to

If you had to make the quill
pen in the old way, stripping
the feathers, cutting the well,
splitting & shearing the tip
off clean; if you had to grind
the ink, holding the cake
straight against the stone,
circling until your wrist ached
to get the proper tone of black;

Read the rest of the poem (and some others you should check out) here.

In the age of instant cut and paste, Green seems to ask, do we still honor our poems with effort? And, in light of his PL position being in limbo, how do we convince the general public that funding our art form is worth the effort?


You might also like Green's poem "Night Dive" at the Poetry Foundation-- it reminds me of after-dark lake swims in the summer.

I'm off to the ocean tomorrow. Dip into more Poetry Friday posts at Language, Literacy, Love. Breanne is hosting the round-up this week.

23 comments:

Toby Speed said...

My father was a calligrapher and did make his own quill pens (I still have unfinished feathers) and other calligrapher's tools that he invented and wrote with, so I related to the first poem instantly. The idea of poetry as luxury is out there everywhere, and it always astonishes me, because I think of poetry as so essential.

I wasn't familiar with Sam Green until now. I particularly like "Grubs" (sob!), "If You Had to," and "Home Town Park."

Tabatha said...

I love If You Had To! Sometimes I feel that way about a beautiful journal. What is good enough to go in it?

The question about supporting poets laureate is a frustrating one because I think a society needs to support the basics, and the arts are a basic. Food for the spirit.

jama said...

What a sad situation! Poetry has always had an uphill climb when it comes to convincing "the masses" of its necessity.

Thanks for introducing us to Sam Green. Hope the PL position is reinstated very soon.

Alison Stevens said...

Great poem. I have to confess, I quite often don't put the effort into poetry that I should.

It's hard to see the "frivolous" positions disappear, when they are the key to creativity and problem solving that our society needs so very much.

Author Amok said...

Toby -- your father's collection of tools sounds fascinating. You and Tabatha raise the poetry as luxury vs. arts as essential food for the spirit issue.

That reminds me of the Great Depression and some of the wonderful art produced by WPA artists. The program supported jobs and public art!

I realize all of us are arts-lovers. One question I don't see raised very often is how to bring "outsiders" -- people who don't seek out the arts -- into this discussion.

Toby Speed said...

My father was one of those artists employed by the WPA to paint murals on public buildings in NYC. Talk about connecting with "outsiders."

Laura, we should plan a discussion on this topic either at Kidlit Con or at January's SCBWI conference in NY. Maybe we can get a group together for lunch or supper or back at the hotel!

Author Amok said...

Wow, Toby! I bet there are some fascinating stories about there. Yes -- let's talk. I'll be going to both conferences. I'll send you an email.

Mary Lee said...

My poem today shouts encouragement to yours that, "YES, poetry is necessary!" Of course, as you point out, our poems feeling that way, or us feeling that way, doesn't pay the poet's rent or fund the author visit at school. How, indeed, do we bring "the outsiders" in?

(Word verification has a suggestion: mendit. Now all we have to figure out is how to mend and what, exactly, is IT.)

Author Amok said...

I love those word verifications, Mary Lee. It's true, we hear very little about inviting the general public into a discussion about poetry. I know NYC Subway's Poetry in Motion series was very popular. Did any of you see the youtube video of Bill Murray reading poetry to factory workers?

Is this a topic we should bring up on the PF panel during the kidlitosphere conference?

Toby Speed said...

I saw the Bill Murray video. Loved the expressions on the faces of the workers.

all things poetry said...

Hi Laura,

I'm not going to be able to attend the PF panel, so maybe my opinion doesn't count. But I would vote that the PF panel should address the "necessity" of poetry.

I have been interested in the arts all of my life in one form or another. I admit my part in the failure to communicate why arts are necessary. It was not until this year when I took a spiritual formation class at our church that I learned more of the administrative side of things. After reading “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges, PhD., I became more aware of how administrators view their organizations.

Administrators or managers are important because they are one of the key groups of people on the "outside" of poetry. Administrators include school superintendents, elementary principals, governmental officials, etc. Managers are usually major in business administration or more relevant to us, a type of educational administration. They will look at programs and people from an outward, overall organizational viewpoint.

This viewpoint is at odds from where most artists begin. Artists begin their worldview from a self-expression or individual viewpoint. We tend to be interested in inner change or growth. In effect, often administrators and artists speak different languages shared from two different views of the world.

In order to effectively get ourselves heard, we have to show how the arts will benefit the administration. In our current world, the only thing that is constant is change and taxes. In “Managing Transitions” (which is basically an administrative handbook) I learned that administrators must take their people through three stages of transition to make an effective change: ending; neutral zone, and new beginnings. The stage which is relevant to the arts is the neutral zone. The neutral zone is the place where they haven’t totally let go of the old to embrace the new system (or new change). During this time the management and employees need to be able to brainstorm to come up with ideas to facilitate the new beginning (the new change). Brainstorming comes hard to employees who are used to taking orders from a top down corporation. Brainstorming can help managers think out of the box. A facility in brainstorming can relieve administrative headaches.

The arts have a corner on the brainstorming market. Artists are always digging into their creativity to come up with new approaches to a poem, new ways to present a character in a play, etc.

Because the world is in a constant state of change, this brainstorming skill is a necessity to the survival of any organization. It will be repeatedly called upon as the company continues to grow and thrive. This mental flexibility needs to be a constant part of managerial and employee toolboxes (resources). (Also, in another resource I read—but it didn’t provide documentation—it said that by stimulating the right side of the brain (which art does) it stimulates the left side of the brain (logic) which is used in the decision making process.

In prep for the PF panel, perhaps, I would suggest that some of the poets and writers read “Managing Transitions” because it can serve to open the dialogue. Unfortunately, historically in society, it has been the underdog that has to learn to speak the language of the master (managers). So, fairly or unfairly, I believe the burden of proof will fall to us.

Laura Evans

all things poetry said...

Hi Laura,

My post is too large, so I’m posting in two different posts.

I'm not going to be able to attend the PF panel, so maybe my opinion doesn't count. But I would vote that the PF panel should address the "necessity" of poetry.

I have been interested in the arts all of my life in one form or another. I admit my part in the failure to communicate why arts are necessary. It was not until this year when I took a spiritual formation class at our church that I learned more of the administrative side of things. After reading “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges, PhD., I became more aware of how administrators view their organizations.

Administrators or managers are important because they are one of the key groups of people on the "outside" of poetry. Administrators include school superintendents, elementary principals, governmental officials, etc. Managers are usually major in business administration or more relevant to us, a type of educational administration. They will look at programs and people from an outward, overall organizational viewpoint.

This viewpoint is at odds from where most artists begin. Artists begin their worldview from a self-expression or individual viewpoint. We tend to be interested in inner change or growth. In effect, often administrators and artists speak different languages shared from two different views of the world.

Laura Evans - 2nd part to follow

B.C. said...

Thank you for helping me discover a new poet. This poem is splendid!

all things poetry said...

2nd part of Laura Evans

In order to effectively get ourselves heard, we have to show how the arts will benefit the administration. In our current world, the only thing that is constant is change and taxes. In “Managing Transitions” (which is basically an administrative handbook) I learned that administrators must take their people through three stages of transition to make an effective change: ending; neutral zone, and new beginnings. The stage which is relevant to the arts is the neutral zone. The neutral zone is the place where they haven’t totally let go of the old to embrace the new system (or new change). During this time the management and employees need to be able to brainstorm to come up with ideas to facilitate the new beginning (the new change). Brainstorming comes hard to employees who are used to taking orders from a top down corporation. Brainstorming can help managers think out of the box. A facility in brainstorming can relieve administrative headaches.

The arts have a corner on the brainstorming market. Artists are always digging into their creativity to come up with new approaches to a poem, new ways to present a character in a play, etc.

Because the world is in a constant state of change, this brainstorming skill is a necessity to the survival of any organization. It will be repeatedly called upon as the company continues to grow and thrive. This mental flexibility needs to be a constant part of managerial and employee toolboxes (resources). (Also, in another resource I read—but it didn’t provide documentation—it said that by stimulating the right side of the brain (which art does) it stimulates the left side of the brain (logic) which is used in the decision making process.

In prep for the PF panel, perhaps, I would suggest that some of the poets and writers read “Managing Transitions” because it can serve to open the dialogue. Unfortunately, historically in society, it has been the underdog that has to learn to speak the language of the master (managers). So, fairly or unfairly, I believe the burden of proof will fall to us.

Laura Evans

Author Amok said...

Hi, Laura. I'm sorry you won't be on that panel. Thanks for all that you shared. I especially liked the point about accessing people from a neutral zone.

You are exactly right about managers and administrators. I am so thankful when a principal invites me to visit his or her school. When school admins set aside time and funds for the arts, it sends a powerful message to children: the arts are an important part of their education.

It's a lesson I learned from my amateur-artist mother. When I was in elementary school, she kept me "home" one day so we could visit the King Tut exhibit. I've never forgotten that my mother thought art was as important as school!

Linda said...

Poetry gets such little support from our society, yet during all the big events in our lives, it's poetry that we turn to in our sorrow and in our joy.

Thank you for introducing me to Sam Green's poetry.

Author Amok said...

That's a wonderful point, Linda. I think of some of the poems that people shared in the first days after 9/11. And Nikki Giovanni's amazing poem in response to the Virginia Tech massacre. http://clatterymachinery.wordpress.com/2007/04/18/nikki-giovannis-we-are-virginia-tech/

Amy LV said...

Laura,
Thank you for sharing this poem and for inspiring so much good talk. I believe that when we gently share poetry with those who do not ask for it, again and again, they come to value poems too. This is a rushed world, and those who have not been given poetry in healthy and beautiful ways sometimes fear it. What a great idea to explore together: how can we introduce our good friend to those who've yet to meet her... I do believe that someday, all Poet Laureates will have a place.
A.

all things poetry said...

Well for what it is worth, Laura, I have registered my vote for the arts with our local high school. The HS superintendent sends out surveys to selected members of our community. I put in lots of plugs for the arts. I signed my name to my survey so he could contact me if any of my points were unclear.

Laura, I hope you will let me know what happens at the panel. It would be interesting to find out the demographics of your audience. I've never attended this type of conference before. Is the audience made up of teachers, librarians, poets, writers, or are there administrators, political representatives, etc. there, too?

Maybe someone can draft a document that says in effect, "10 reasons poetry can improve your academic program". The document would be free to attendees for them to sign and send to their senator or their school administrator.

Also, if the PF Panel ever appears on streaming video, I'd love to know where--so I may watch it.


Laura Evans

Author Amok said...

Amy, I think you're right about giving poetry to people as a gift against the rush. Over the years of working with elementary schoolers, I've learned that the more fun I'm having teaching them poetry, the more they open up and enjoy it.

Laura -- I love your 10 reasons idea. I'll propose it to the panel, maybe we can put together a handout. Let's talk specifics via email.

Thanks everyone -- this was one of the best PF discussions I've ever had. I value your opinions and your passion for poetry.

Mary Lee said...

The audience at KidLit Con has historically been bloggers in the Kidlitosphere: bloggers who review children's literature, children's authors, teachers, etc. So while we likely won't be reaching administrators and politicians at the conference, there's no stopping us as citizens and employees from figuring out ways to advocate for the arts beyond our happy little Friday party that we throw for each other!

Author Amok said...

Hmmm... maybe Kidlit Con will be a good opportunity to talk with people about how they advocate for the arts at their schools and libraries. We could share tips -- as Laura E. suggested. Looking forward to it!

laurasalas said...

I love both of these poems. The Night Dive one especially. I'm going to have to check out more of his work. Thanks, Laura!