Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--#9

I am constantly on the look-out for "teachable" poems--poems that I can use to build reading and writing skills. There is never a shortage of them. Just as important as poems students can learn from, however, are poems that can "hook" students--poems that can open their eyes to the wonders of poetry and get them wanting more.

Today's new (to me) poem, I think, just might be both. But it first stood out to me as a poem that, if shared with a high school male, would really appeal to them. Maybe I'm too old to make this sort of prognostication, to far removed from my own youth and my own infuriatingly mundane high school experience...or maybe it just connects with me and takes me back to my youth. And THAT is a pretty powerful thing, too.

The Poet at Seventeen 
by Larry Levis

My youth? I hear it mostly in the long, volleying   
Echoes of billiards in the pool halls where   
I spent it all, extravagantly, believing
My delicate touch on a cue would last for years.

Outside the vineyards vanished under rain,
And the trees held still or seemed to hold their breath   
When the men I worked with, pruning orchards, sang   
Their lost songs: Amapola; La Paloma;

Jalisco, No Te Rajes—the corny tunes
Their sons would just as soon forget, at recess,
Where they lounged apart in small groups of their own.   
Still, even when they laughed, they laughed in Spanish.

I hated high school then, & on weekends drove
A tractor through the widowed fields. It was so boring   
I memorized poems above the engine’s monotone.   
Sometimes whole days slipped past without my noticing,

And birds of all kinds flew in front of me then.
I learned to tell them apart by their empty squabblings,   
The slightest change in plumage, or the inflection   
Of a call. And why not admit it? I was happy

Then. I believed in no one. I had the kind   
Of solitude the world usually allows   
Only to kings & criminals who are extinct,
Who disdain this world, & who rot, corrupt & shallow

Read the rest of this terrific poem here. And continue to follow us during your celebration of National Poetry Month. I'll be sharing a newly discovered poem (new to me, at least) each day during April.

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