Sunday, April 3, 2011

National Poetry Month Issue 3

I first read Janice Lynch Schuster's poem "Teaching the Girls" as part of a Poetry Friday post. In it, the speakers children spar in the kitchen before dinner.

At the time, I was in residence at a middle school. I thought, "I love the poem, because I am a parent like the speaker. But I wonder what the girls in the poem have to say about this scene."

Middle and high schoolers, your National Poetry Month prompt of the day is to remember a family scene like the one in "Teaching the Girls." It's dinner, and the kids are messing around. The adult in the room joins in, or balks the fuss.

Tell one stanza from a kids' point of view, but the second stanza from the parent's perspective.

Teaching the Girls
by Janice Lynch Schuster

After dinner the girls shadow box

In the kitchen. There is small space
For their joy, their blonde energy
As they bob and weave near the counter.


I warn them about the hot
Burners, coffee pot and knives.
Metaphors fly; they are merry and warm,
I am their crazy coach, reciting
Combinations as what’s left of dinner burns.

Chin down, guard up!
Light on your feet,
Snap that punch!

I’ve been training them for years
For the punches life will land,
The world beautiful and brutal,
Everyday and extraordinary.

I want them ready to slip
Through it as we do this night,
So wired by their own lives,
Nothing crowding them in a corner
The whole arena of my love
Resounding in their laughter.

Posted with permission of Janice Lynch Schuster.

Alternate prompt:
If the two-point-of-view prompt doesn't work for you, try this instead:

I found it surprising that the parent in the poem is teaching the girls how to box. Did anyone ever teach you how to do something out of the norm or unexpected?

Maryland poet Janice Lynch Schuster is a contributor to Life in Me Like Grass on Fire, which I'll be featuring all month. She has a book coming out this year, Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Living with Serious Illness, which she co-authored.

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