Saturday, 24 January 2015

Saskatchewan Poetry

My students read aloud poems they'd selected by Currie, Szumigalski, Margoshes, Krause, Rawley, Benning, Monahan, Lynes. A Saskatchewan poetry festival, right here in our classroom, was how I billed it.
I should have played it up more. The reading of any one poem went ok--a tad fast at times, one or two sing-songy interludes from students who haven't heard a poem lately.
I asked them to write down whatever they took from a cold hearing of the poem, no text. Write up your reactions informally in prose for Monday.
As I try that now, I  note a lyric voice understood this way: a man (for example) watching seasons, the flora and fauna, creating the field he knows, one eye on the ending. Done well, it does well. If we're looking out a west window, might as well watch the melt in the alley, spring-like in January (except for the green, the man admits, still looking).
When further poems move that way, even the inexperienced readers in the classroom get restless. The man points out that what he feels in his body is what he sees out there. From here to the horizon becomes the poem, by the time the man attaches a story or two. 
Of course, I'm referring here to the effects of what my students want when they read, as much as to any default poetic at work in Sask poems.
Well, whatever. The poem continues. The man begins to act like, and be, both the source and destination of language (often expressed as book, writing, word).
Something small will be observed.
The man will remember. 
He used to write in the fronts of textbooks, more than just his name. Those inside front covers escaped the usual rules. Bones could be drawn, and maps. He could execute his signature with pens of three colours at the same time. The school's name had been stamped there, and a PROPERTY OF. After that, anything goes.
Six or seven poems in, the students were repeating themselves in what they picked out of each poem heard, for now, only once. Night seemed to be showing up in every poem, followed by day. The poems seem to gaze through their own reflections
Wouldn't you know it, one of the poets--I'm sorry I don't remember which one right now (but I can check!)--lays down lush rebellion, allowing me to claim we have just encountered these two words together for the first and only time in human history.
And the man walks on with his landscape and his breath and all those hours.
But we'll see what my students say come Monday.

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