105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Carver: A Life in Poems

I am surrounded by junk. I can’t clear it out. A lack of time and energy does play a huge part in the steady accumulation of stuff. But the process of cleaning up takes so long and takes so much energy because it’s really hard for me to get rid of things. I see so much potential in everything.

And I am right on the potential a decent percentage of the time, which is enough to validate my reluctance to toss things out. An Ikea box becomes a big fish for a play prop. The box of leftover crayons will be given out at a Girl Scout activity night. When my workplace was done with handcrafted centerpieces for a party, I took five of them. They were then centerpieces for a Girl Scout dance and a drama club party. Much later they were torn apart for their components and became the decoration on a third grader’s Chinese dragon.

Carver: A Life in PoemsI know that I’m justifying, and not even that well. But I take some comfort from today’s poem from Carver: A Life in Poems, by Marilyn Nelson.
Chemistry 101

A canvas apron over his street clothes,
Carver leads his chemistry class into
the college dump. The students follow, a claque
of ducklings hatched by hens. Where he
sees a retort, a Bunsen burner,
a mortar, zinc sulfate, they see
a broken bowl, a broken lantern,
a rusty old flatiron, a fruit jar top.
Their tangle of twine, his lace.
He turns, a six-inch length of copper tubing
in one hand. “Now, what can we do with this?”
Two by two, little lights go on.
One by hesitant one, dark hands are raised.
The waters of imagining, their element.
Winner of both Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Awards in 2002, Carver: A Life in Poems explains the life of an extraordinary man in an equally extraordinary way. The poems often include a footnote with the exact biographical information — the names, dates, and places — leaving the poems free to be more descriptive and lyrical. The poems follow Carver’s life span from the time he was recovered from a kidnapper as a baby to the last days of his life watching the Tuskegee Airmen take to the sky. Some poems are written from the point of view of different people along his path, including teachers, students, and friends. The result is a deeper view of the the man and of the times in which he lived. It’s an excellent book, and is especially perfect for Black History Month — showing one man’s achievements, but not in the arena of slavery or civil rights.

Today, school was cancelled on account of ice, so maybe I can tackle some of my own junk. But if I am unsuccessful, I can claim the spirit of Carver, “the waters of imagining” clearly being me in my element. Poetry Friday round-up is over at Big A, little a, and it looks like lots of weekend reading for all.


Sara said...

I had to actually HIDE things if I wanted to get rid of anything when my daughter was little. She would get into the trash and rescue cereal boxes and plastic pieces and such. She's studying science (and writing) now, natch.

Anonymous said...

My co-blogger, Ruth, and I have been inspired to pay closer attention to our daily lives. As teachers, we've realized this is of paramount importance for children as well. Therefore, in our classrooms and on our blog, we're starting a SLICE OF LIFE STORY CHALLENGE during the month of March. We're hoping to encourage teachers and writers to record slices of their daily lives in their writer's notebooks or on their blogs (and participate in our 31-day challenge).

We value this work and think it could have a great impact on the lives of children in writing classrooms across the country. However we need adults to do this important work first. Therefore, we'd love to have you be part of this Challenge. You can learn more about it by going to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/slice-of-life-story-challenge/.

Additionally, your support of this endeavor, would be super too. Would you be willing to share this Challenge with your blog readers?

Thank you!

Best regards,

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Oooo this looks like a great book! I'm putting it on our book list for the spring. What an inspiring poem. You go ahead and keep inventing from your "stuff". We need more role models like you that can keep the world going on just what's at hand... and creating it all over again like Carver.

Mary Lee said...

I admire people like you who don't just keep things but actually put them to new use after new use after new use. I'm not very good about keeping things, so I'm always wishing for what I've thrown out or donated. If I do keep things, I don't think of them until too late or I can't find them when I need them.

laurasalas said...

We cleaned out the basement this past weekend and came across tons of things that we *could* have used again, if only we had known where they were. But we never do, and I try to be practical.

I'm a ruthless thrower-awayer when given the chance. Otherwise I'm constantly buried under potential. :>)

Great post. I loved this book first time around and want to re-read it.