I've said it many times.
My students often manage to teach me more than I feel like I teach them. Sarah from my Creative Writing class is a prime example of these lessons being learned.
Sarah is everything I wish I had been in high school. She is a super intelligent IB student who is mega-confident, creative, and has faith out the wazoo. She loves literature, and all things musical and pop culture. She always comes into class with something interesting to share, and the other day was no exception. For our Notebook Time we watched a spoken word poem entitled: 3 Ways to Speak English. When class was ending that day, Sarah asked me if I had ever heard of Sarah Kay.
Of course, being the completely uncultured young woman I am, I said, "No, who's that?" After a little bit of gasping and gushing, Sarah demanded I watch Sarah Kay's TED Talk and get back to her next class.
Another obsession was born.
You see, all the spoken word poetry I had seen in the past made me feel entirely inadequate. They all sounded like raps, intricately woven tapestries of pain, angst, and being misunderstood. I appreciated every last one of them with a far-off admiration for their artistry and ability. Never once, however, did I say, I want to try that, until now.
I'll share more on why Sarah Kay's poem, "If I Should Have a Daughter" resonated with me so much, but I don't want to lose my nerve, today (And--let's face it--the word count would be astronomical). I decided to use "If I Should Have a Daughter" as a mentor text to write my very first ISH-poem.
I couldn't quite tone down the long-windedness. Once I got going, it just kept flowing (check me out, you can't stop the beat!). So, I'm not sure if you can even call this a poem. But here it goes.
If I Could Be A Poet
If I could be a poet, I’d wear a Parisian beret
whether or not I had something to say.
If someone asked me, I’d have plenty to say
that made sense of the world as we could never seem to know it,
that would give me a reason to tilt my hat that way.
If I could be a poet, maybe I could stay in the moment
just long enough to yearn for that joy to stay forever,
but instead I yearn for the Nevers and the Have Yets
when I haven’t even dreamed them yet.
If I could be a poet, I’d make sense of why my face can be hot
and my arms shivering when I step into
a crowd I can’t control.
Faces and hearts unreadable
ruins my effort to present my best self,
to present their ever-present help,
the cool-enough girl
who cares enough about them to create a safe space,
but not enough to let them deface the identity
formed in her before they ever walked in the door.
If I could be a poet, that identity could never be altered
by a new one in the room.
Just as soon as I heard whispers—
or even made them up in my head—
that identity would be enriched instead of eclipsed,
the heft of its rock-solidness would speak to everyone
feeling flimsy or spongy,
saturated by everything they’re not,
but starting to believe they are.
If I could be a poet, I’d stand before you with sureity,
knowing the raw purity of my experience-tainted words
would not fly over your head,
but instead would shed light on your own
stains of pains and refrains that seem to
recur and obscure your ability to move forward.
If I could be a poet, I’d stand with stamina,
knowing my swift words and rhythms might pry open
something hinged closed and locked tight.
But right when you think my words have ceased,
my silence would begin as I stay close—
just close enough to see you through,
because whatever you do, don’t shut the door.
Let it in.
Shakespeare noted, The breaking of so great a thing
should make a greater crack,
but the cracks in me are less about making noise,
and more about creating space.
Space where just a trace of light begins to peek through,
creating shimmers and shadows that glimmer where it matters
and tie us together not by what we do,
but by the New Thing created by those pieces
and the space in between.
It’s who we get to be in the breeze and the light coming through,
not who we are once we gain the strength to close the gap.
In this case, a student ignited a creativity in me that I never knew I had, or even thought I wanted. Thanks, Sarah!