A Poem for The Sixth of January by David Budbill

The Sixth of January
David Budbill

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.
Who cares?

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.

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A Poem for The Sixth of January by David Budbill

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

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.

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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!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-7-36-27-pmSo 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!



Kate Walker maintains the PCTELA blog. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher in State College, PA and a former board member of PCTELA.

Friday Five: My Top Five Moments of NCTE16

Never Forget. Two Poems from Poetry after 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets

Today many people are thinking about what happened fifteen years ago in New York,162486 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.

Grudges
Stephen Dunn
Easy for almost anything to occur.
Even if we’ve scraped the sky, we can be rubble.
For years those men felt one way, acted another.
Ground Zero, is it possible to get lower?
Now we had a new definition of the personal,
knew almost anything could occur.
It just takes a little training, to blur
A motive, lie low while planning the terrible,
Get good at acting one way, feeling another.
Yet who among us doesn’t harbor
A grudge or secret? So much isn’t erasable;
It follows that almost anything can occur,
Like men ascending into the democracy of air
Without intending to land, the useful veil
Of having said one thing, meaning another.
Before you know it something’s over.
Suddenly someone’s missing at the table.
It’s easy (I know it) for anything to occur
When men feel one way, act another.

Flight

Miranda Beeson
An iridescent exhausted finch
found its way to your home
in the aftermath.
Trapped between screen and pane
you palmed him, brought him in,
built him a cage that was not a cage.
A hidden perch for the nights.
An aviary filled with light and seed
for the days.
Where had he come from?
A pet store in the shadow of the towers?
A tiny door unlatched by the blasts?
We pondered dark scenarios.
The survival of this slight speck
of feathered perfection seemed
more important than anything else
we could think of those first few weeks:
more important than the planes,
the slow motion tumble,
the man in his business suit
who fell through the air without
the benefit of wings.
Never Forget. Two Poems from Poetry after 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets

A Poem: What the Dead Know By Heart by Donte Collins

This week the Academy of American Poets announced Donte Collins won the Most Promising Young Poet Award for 2106.

what the dead know by heart

Donte Collins

lately, when asked how are you, i

respond with a name no longer living
Rekia, Jamar, Sandra
i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder

often: if the gun that will unmake me

is yet made, what white birth
will bury me, how many bullets, like a

flock of blue jays, will come carry my black

to its final bed, which photo will be used
to water down my blood. today i did

not die and there is no god or law to

thank. the bullet missed my head
and landed in another. today, i passed

a mirror and did not see a body, instead

a suggestion, a debate, a blank
post-it note there looking back. i

haven’t enough room to both rage and

weep. i go to cry and each tear turns
to steam. I say I matter and a ghost

white hand appears over my mouth

A Poem: What the Dead Know By Heart by Donte Collins

A Poem for Labor Day: “Work” by Philip Levine

What Work Is
Philip Levine

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.

A Poem for Labor Day: “Work” by Philip Levine

Summer heat cartoons…

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!

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Summer heat cartoons…

Happy Birthday, Louise Erdrich

Today Native American writer Louise Erdrich turns 62. A novelist, essayist, and poet, she is considered one of the most significant contributors to the Second Wave of the Native American Renaissance.
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Advice to Myself
Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all you heart.
Your heart, t hat place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

Happy Birthday, Louise Erdrich