"I might be a trouble. I wasn’t sure why the airport book store had a "Good Books" section, a "classics" section, and an "African American" section. Or, rather, I wasn’t sure why these had to be exclusive canons. So I reshelved some of Morrison’s books."3 weeks ago
… not the least because Edward Hirsch is in residence on campus, and, not coincidentally, I’ve taught both some of his poetry and some of his lovely book, How to Read a Poem this term.
Wednesday’s assignment took a page from Hirsch’s idea about a poem as a score for the human voice and asked students to choose a poem and read it to someone. It was delightful watching my inbox light up as they reported their experiences. (As they told me why they chose each poem or who in their life they decided to read it to, I was again reminded of something else Hirsch says - that the reader completes the poem).
Hirsch visited our classroom yesterday and shared a few drafts of “Special Orders” with us and then took questions from students. I was so pleased and proud at how they were able to converse with him after just a few classes spent on poetry…
When they asked, him, for instance, about the choice not to use multiple stanzas in “Cotton Candy,” he first warned them that the poem wasn’t his any more, and that they ought not look to him for answers. Then he proceeded to give an answer as to his intention (he wanted the prosy narrative quality; he wanted no volta) that very closely mirrored the account of the effect they’d already arrived at in class discussion before he joined us (that the poem unwinds like a memory), along the way throwing out, in the most gentle and natural and beginner-friendly ways, terms like ‘volta,’ to which they were able to nod along. In person as in print, Edward Hirsch is a wonderful ambassador for poetry.
If I read the temperature of the room correctly, there’s one thing that they’re all taking away, and that is that poetry is theirs. They are readers enough.
It makes me feel inspired, too. I am reader enough.1 month ago
My parents asked me some time ago to tell them which horse we were supporting for the Tri-Fecta fundraiser this year. It wasn’t an easy choice - I’m at the leadrope of four new equine employees this session, each special in her or his own way. But here’s my pick:
Sugar is (to look at her face) a purebred Arabian of uncertain age who was, less than two years ago, being nearly starved to death on a farm in Ann Arbor. She was one of the lucky ones that got off that farm alive, and she caught the attention of one of our board members who was volunteering at the Humane Society rehab facility. Though Arabians are a spirited breed and Sugar was having some understandable trust issues after suffering such long neglect, Jan went to look at her and said she saw something in her eye that made her say yes to her, even though she wasn’t even strong enough for a test-ride yet! Sugar’s been at TRI since last November, putting on more weight and going through training. I’m one of her leaders in this, her first session as a full-time employee. She’s still very much a work in progress: she’s a little uncertain in her stall; she leads a little crookedly and throws her head up on her walk-trot transitions… until you put a kid on her.
Then the transformation is instantaneous. Her ears cup back to scoop in the child’s every word and her gait transitions smooth out because she knows she’s carrying precious cargo. When the kid leans sideways, she steps under them to keep them centered. She’s going to keep learning and growing into an amazing therapy mount - one of those smart, sensitive horses who are good at this work not because they’re lazy and unflappable but because they think very hard about how to be good at their jobs. All of that, and an electric Arabian walk that keeps some of our stronger young riders mentally and physically engaged. Jan looked at her the other day and reminded me of an old horseman’s saying: You can make the canter, but you have to buy the walk. Or in this case, you have to adopt the walk, by giving a down-on-her luck scarecrow of a mare a chance to heal and prove herself…
( Donation Link )2 months ago
Eight o’clock, no later,
You light the lamps,
The big one by the large window,
The small one on your desk.
They are not to see by —
It is still twilight out over the sand,
The scrub oaks and cranberries.
Even the small birds have not settled
For sleep yet, out of the reach
Of prowling foxes. No,
You light the lamps because
You are alone in your small house
And the wicks sputtering gold
Are like two visitors with good stories
They will tell slowly, in soft voices,
While the air outside turns quietly
A grainy and luminous blue.
You wish it would never change —
But of course the darkness keeps
Its appointment. Each evening,
An inscrutable presence, it has the final word
Outside every door.
(from Mary Oliver, Twelve Moons, 1979)2 months ago
Do my horses remember me?
After 20 months away, some of my riders have forgotten my face, my voice, my name. This is to be expected after a school year and a half - an eternity for a child. And my horses, the old friends whom I used to so regularly groom, tack, lead, ride? Do they recognize me?
It doesn’t matter. One turns to horses not to be recognized but to be known. I don’t need a name; I don’t need to be re-cognized, to be known again. To spend time with a horse is to be known anew every instant, to stand transparent before equine clairvoyance, to make my inner waters tranquil so theirs will be, too; to show them kindness and firmness, to see and respect them when they know their job subtly and well, and promise them, by set of shoulders and tone of voice, to be their courage should anything go awry. It is impossibly precious to stand and be looked at by a horse.