I have loved poetry all my life and I’ve loved teachers, both my own and those I taught with for 32 years in public schools. This year, for six Tuesday nights in Morristown, Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain enabled me to be in the company of both.
Ask teachers about the opportunities to actually dialogue in a meaningful manner with other teachers in their building and you will probably get a blank stare. The typical frantic school day provides little time for educators to actually speak and listen to each other. During my career I had some colleagues who shared my love of poetry but our communication was usually limited to putting poems we admired in each other’s mailboxes then exchanging a few comments as we passed each other in the hall on our way to class. Any discussion of literature important to us that exceeded three or four minutes at one time was indeed a rare gift.
Because of this, in the Spring and Fountain meetings this year I felt a collective joy in the teachers that they could actually have two hours and fifteen minutes of bell-less talking about poetry. They could, for an evening, leave their concerns about standardized test scores, getting papers graded, classes planned, and materials copied to simply experience poetry for the love of it.
Each participant contributed four poems to our group packet and we shared time each week responding to these selections and, although occasionally a member might say, “I’d like to use this one in my class,” during most of the sessions we interacted, not as teachers, but simply as lovers of literature. I had the pleasure of seeing how art can turn strangers into friends as our gatherings blossomed into time of mutual respect and warm regard. I even found myself loving the drive from my home in the Poconos to Morristown anticipating the meetings with people and poems that I cherished.
When I consider this past year’s experience I think of a line from Joseph Millar’s wonderful poem, “Telephone Repairman,’
We live so much of our lives
without telling anyone.
Over the course of six Spring and Fountain sessions we had the opportunity to change that and it was the “telling” by my brother and sister teachers that I loved most of all.
Did you know that the Dodge Poetry Program has a YouTube channel?Take a look – view video clips from past biennial Festivals! You can also join the conversation on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @dodgepoetryfest. See you there!