On November 13, 2017, my friend and colleague Matthew Zapruder started a thread on Facebook seeking ideas for teaching poetry to kids. Matthew is not just a writer of most-memorable lines, but also the author of Why Poetry (Ecco, 2017) and a veteran teacher of verse—but not to elementary school students. His friends delivered in spades, brainstorming, sharing tips, and showing their own offbeat creativity. It all made for a bracing palaver about poetry.
To recharge from a rough day of teaching, I read poetry. There, I can wrestle with something provocative, but concise. In “St. Francis and the Sow,” Galway Kinnell, imagines an exchange between St. Francis of Assisi and a sow whose fourteen piglets deplete her energy and esteem. St. Francis helps the pig to see that in her obligations as a mother, she fulfills her purpose. St. Francis is the sort of teacher I once strove to be—kind, unflappable, and gentle. However, the beneficent teacher I hoped would thrive has not survived; a crankier part of my persona has emerged.