Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Relevance of Robbie Burns

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” - Dylan Thomas

An old discarded rice box used as a metaphor moustache. A bendable straw and brown paper bag turned magically into an alliterative lily pad and frog. A chunk of styrofoam transformed zip, bang, boom into an onomatopoetic phrase. Who knew garbage could take poetic form?
Well, whose classroom are you talking about?
“Because I could not stop for death, it kindly stopped for me.” - Emily Dickinson

For the last unit of the semester, as the wind turned to biting teeth and the cement walls of our school screeched with nappy students pinching themselves awake as their Chinese teachers droned on with microphones, we turned our classroom window into a huge garbage poetry mural.
“The best laid plans of mice and men…” - Robbie Burns

Poetry Units come and go. Students study Rhyme Scheme and Poetic Form. Laugh at Ode to My Socks and write journals on The Diameter of a Bomb. I send them outside to scribble poetry on slips of paper and fallen leaves, and make them collect garbage to turn into recyclable classroom art.
In essence, we become poets for a fortnight.
“Or leave a kiss but in the cup and I’ll not look for wine.” - Ben Johnson

And thinkers too…
It’s a question not many ask: What is the difference between lyrical and imagery poetry? But I put it on the test nonetheless. Language that depends on rhythm, beat, meter, and rhyme as opposed to those that create a picture in the mind. For my students, I always wanted them to think so deeply about the words they say or write, that they had meaning, that they don’t fall on deaf ears. Words count. Everything we say has a reason.
“Oh, I’m Dirty Dan, the world’s dirtiest man.” - Shel Silverstein

You know, all my life I’ve thought about this. It was one of the earliest memories. Sitting on the floor of my bedroom playing with matchbox cars in the grooves of a shag carpet, thinking… remember this, Brian. Remember everything. Remember David’s psalms and Dickinson’s verses. Remember the everlasting lyrics of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the tricky rhymes of Robbie Burns. Remember them for when you are alone, for those dark nights of the soul, for the sweet moments of hidden smiles when there is no one around to see the joke too. Remember them, for poetry will always save you.
“My luve for thee is like a red, red rose.” - Robbie Burns

It’s a funny life, that’s for sure, but the classroom has always been my place. I love teaching. You are bound only to your creative limits. If you want to use the Violent Femmes to teach a grammatical point or have students collect garbage for a poetry mural, you can do it. It is new every morning. But the constant is the feeling, which will never go away.
Poetry is relevant in our lives. Just as memories are true, and the future is limitless.

1 comment:

  1. We two have run about the slopes,

    and picked the daisies fine ;

    But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,

    since auld lang syne.

    We two have paddled in the stream,

    from morning sun till dine† ;

    But seas between us broad have roared

    since auld lang syne.

    And there’s a hand my trusty friend !

    And give us a hand o’ thine !

    And we’ll take a right good-will draught,

    for auld lang syne.