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Give Me a Break December 27, 2009: It happens during every break from school: I am suddenly overcome with rich, vivid, dreams, like something out of a Vision Quest. I wake up with images and lines I scribble down as quickly as I can. At first I thought this might just be a Ny-Quil induced narco-state, but now I see it's something bigger. I love my job, but during the school [...] by

Sliding Doors December 23, 2009: Many people use the final days of December to take stock of the year -- counting their blessings or wallowing in regret. Maybe this is because, as Dana Gioia writes in Summer Storm, “Memory insists on pining/For places it never went,/As if life would be happier/Just by being different.” So how would our lives be different if we had chosen to [...] by

True/False December 12, 2009: When I say begin, open your test booklet and begin reading. When you finish reading, write your own list poem. I have always loved Dean Young's poem "True/False" from his brilliant collection Elegy on Toy Piano. Since each line can be read as true or false, the result is a hilarious and profound list poem. Here are his first ten [...] by

Learning to Teach/Teaching to Learn December 6, 2009: Last weekend my son announced that his 6th grade class was about to start a poetry unit. I thought I knew what this meant, having done guest spots in my kids’ classes since they were in nursery school. So, I asked my son to give me some lead-time to arrange my schedule for a visit. But this year would be different, I quickly learned. [...] by

A/Musing: On Creativity November 28, 2009: Part I. She entered with a flourish – a leather suit, staccato stilettos, and a hand-held computer device with which she may have been commanding the International Space Station. No time for bullshit. To be fair, there wasn’t much time. Last week was Parent-Teacher Conferences and, in all, I talked with around 100 parents [...] by

Singing the Blues November 21, 2009: I love blues music -- singing the blues, listening to the blues. That's why I was so excited to get a call from my friend Pierre Lacocque, a wicked blues harp player and the band leader of Mississippi Heat. Pierre asked me to work on lyrics for the band's new album -- and I couldn't pass up the chance. I had a blast working with Pierre [...] by

Spoken Words November 14, 2009: Last week we held our annual Literary Festival at school. We had an amazing line-up (including Harold Ramis; 2-time Newberry winner, Gary Schmidt; the rock band, The Handsome Family; and sports writer, Melissa Isaacson). But we always make sure to invite at least one performance poet and, without fail, this performer is the overwhelming fan [...] by

Poemsinging November 6, 2009: Like many people, my interest in poetry grew out of my interest in music. As a listener, I love the thoughtful lyrics of songwriters like Joe Henry, Rennie Sparks from The Handsome Family, Chuck D, Gershwin. Regardless of the song-genre, great lyrics hit me first.  My interest in reading poetry came about in a much sneakier way. I took [...] by

A New View on Haiku November 1, 2009: Like many people, I was taught that haiku were poems that followed a 5-7-5 syllable count. In fact, I taught haiku that way for years myself. I’ll even own up to the fact that I used haiku as my "special lesson" on days when I was being observed. There was something so satisfyingly tight about the form and my observers (read: my [...] by

Poetry Noir October 27, 2009: This year I'm teaching a new class called Literature and Film. Since I'm always thinking of ways to use poetry in the classroom, we started the year by screening Run Lola Run while we read Oedipus the King (the brilliant Robert Fagles translation replete with devastatingly ironic line breaks). In our film noir unit, we read some terrific noir [...] by