The Sixth of January
The cat sits on the back of the sofa looking
out the window through the softly falling snow
at the last bit of gray light.
I can’t say the sun is going down.
We haven’t seen the sun for two months.
I am sitting in the blue chair listening to this stillness.
The only sound: the occasional gurgle of tea
coming out of the pot and into the cup.
How can this be?
Such calm, such peace, such solitude
in this world of woe.
So this is totally my personal list of my Top Five Moments (although it was hard to only choose five), but feel free to add your own in the comments section. We all know conferences are about conversations, and there have been so many conversations today that made my day better–whether they were conversations in line for food or books, or conversations at or between sessions–each conversation enriched my experience. I feel privileged to call myself a teacher today in the company of these remarkable people.
In no particular order:
1. Listening to the opening General Session titled Authors as Advocates–what a conversation. Sharon Draper, Jason Reynolds, Ibtisam Barakat, e.E Charlton-Trujillo, Meg Medina, and G. Neri were phenomenal together.
2. Attending a session by sj Miller, titled “Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans* and Gender Creative Youth: A Queer Literacy Framework.” This session was small, but important, and I was reminded in this session this work matters so much–but why doesn’t it matter more?
3. Informal conversations as we passed in the halls with PCTELA people: Amy Nyholt, our President; Jennie Brown, past president; Bob Dandoy, our treasurer (and past Executive Director); and Glenda Daulerio, the VP of Middle Level.
Jennie Brown and Jennifer Novotney sign books
4. Talking to the exhibitors who really know their books. The Penguin Book and the HarperCollins booths were particularly helpful, and I walked away with a copy of Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn and a copy of The Red Bandana by Tom Rinaldi. I’m looking forward to reading these and hopefully adding them to my curriculum. The conversations at the booths with publishers are always enlightening.
5. Conversations with the authors themselves. After talking to Sharon Draper at PCTELA about books, and then seeing her this morning, I found a copy of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and dropped it off for her while she was signing. Her face lit up–nothing like giving a book to a famous author to make you feel good. Then, I chatted with e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and had her book Fat Angie signed and we talked about gender-neutral salutations (Mx) and she signed my book like that!
So I admit it, I’m biased: I’m all about peace, love, and books. I’m all about conversations with people to create connections, and the NCTE conference is a phenomenal venue for that. So here’s to a great first day at the conference, and there are still two more left!
Today many people are thinking about what happened fifteen years ago in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. There’s a powerful anthology of poetry called Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, where I found the following two poems. The first, by Stephen Dunn, is a villanelle.
What Work Is
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.
It is the heart of the summer here in Pennsylvania…thought I would share some New Yorker cartoons about summertime. I often use cartoons from the New Yorker in class with books, as they have many cartoons about Frankenstein and other classics texts, as well as cartoons that would help students unpack humor and discuss current events. At any rate, happy summer, and stay cool!