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Commenting on Comments October 23, 2009: The only thing worth saying in a book review, Raymond Carver once said, is Good job, keep writing! Some people hearing that line assumed he was soft-hearted if not soft-minded – but Carver was neither. He knew that writing, especially personal writing, is an act of courage in which we expose ourselves -- what we stand for, what we believe, [...] by

Users of Word Magic, Makers of Poems October 19, 2009: I'm always stealing ideas from other poets to bring to my classes. This summer I read a very interesting poem by Anna McDonald originally published in The Paris Review. The poem, called "Possible Titles for His Plaque" is a clever riff on the Homeric convention of using tags for characters. Just as Homer calls the Trojans "breakers of horses," [...] by

The Tree Inside My Head October 16, 2009: Several years ago, around Halloween, I was informed of a sickening and racist story while leading a workshop at an affluent, mostly white, local high school. As part of a writing exercise on persona, I asked students what costumes they planned on wearing for Halloween. The class laughed nervously and all eyes turned to Robert. [...] by

Once More, in English Please October 12, 2009: The recent announcement that Herta Muller won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature came as a huge surprise to me as I’m sure it did to many Americans. While Muller has written twenty books, only 5, according to the New York Times, have been translated into English. The tiny percentage of Muller’s work translated into [...] by

Making Room for Poetry October 8, 2009: In the past year I've talked about poetry with a few hundred classroom teachers and heard one overwhelmingly common complaint.  Given the demands of required texts and standardized tests, there just isn't enough time for poetry. One teacher drew the analogy of designing a curriculum and furnishing a house: "You start with the big pieces [...] by

Pledging Allegiance to Poetry October 3, 2009: school-- take out the “sh” and it’s cool Starting is often hardest – the first gesture determines so much of what follows. This is true for poems, for personal introductions, even for blog posts! It’s also true when thinking about the school day. At my school, like so many others, the day officially commences with a student [...] by