I have never started a poem whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.
— Robert Frost
Robert Frost was right when he said that writing poetry is about self-discovery. Although poems vary in length, content, and style, poems reflect the soul. Twenty-one Upper School students, faculty, and staff members participated in the WRC’s Poetry Aloud on Wednesday afternoon, a virtual poetry reading bursting with creativity.
“Today, we come together to read poetry aloud, to celebrate the sounds as well as the meanings of the words on the page,” said Middle and Upper School writing teacher Jennifer Perry at the beginning of the reading. “Poetry is, after all, as much an oral art form as it is a written art form, and our celebration will emphasize poetry's vocality, rhythms, and silences between utterances. We will attend to what the eye can’t see but the ear can hear. Reciting poetry is an action, a form of enactment, and to say it aloud is to make it happen. Let the recitations begin!”
The participants shared their innermost feelings and favorite works of poetry.
“Saying and hearing poetry aloud are very distinctive experiences,” said Jennifer Paull, director of the Writing & Research Center. “When you read a poem out loud, you make that poem yours. If there’s a poem you love, memorize it and make it your own. As physically distant as we are now, the shared experience of hearing poems and speaking them aloud—feeling them in our throats, our ears, and our minds—was even more essential.
“I loved the range of poems—from original poems by students to classics, from hilarious to heart-wrenching,” she added. “I loved seeing everyone’s expressions as they listened deeply, whether breaking out in irrepressible grins, or nodding when a line hit home, or even stealthily brushing away a tear. Students and teachers alike said how much they loved hearing these verses aloud, so we hope to have another reading before the year is out!”
Upper School math teacher Ted Theodosopoulos read “The End and the Beginning” by the late Polish poet Wislawa Szymborksa. The poem was published in 1993, shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
“It is very meaningful for me,” Ted said. “I have it pinned next to my desk. It reminds me of the irreconcilable conflict between the human imperative to remember and the natural need to forget and rebuild from the ashes. Both are inextricably part of the human condition. I think it also applies to our current predicament. I was very happy to see this event taking place and to have an opportunity to participate. Reading poetry aloud, and listening to it, gives me great joy. Sharing poetry with students was a unique privilege, and I am grateful to all who made it possible.”
Nueva English teacher Jamie Biondi said he has been reading much more than usual ever since he lost his commute and has been forced to stay at home. He enjoyed hearing the various poetry selections.
“It was so lovely to spend some time in the middle of a busy week slowing down and reading poetry out loud with fellow lovers of literature,” he said. “We have such talented students who are willing to share their talents in public ways, even when their writing was originally in another language. It’s always such a joy to see teachers of diverse backgrounds sharing a love of poetry. It can sometimes feel like I’m a literature nerd all on my own in my English classes, so events like this one help me to realize that practically everyone loves stories and language in their own way. It made me so happy to experience people bringing art that they love (whether they made it themselves or not) to life, even if Zoom still feels different from ‘real’ in-person life. For that brief moment of poetic respite, we felt much closer together, so I’m hoping there are many more of these kinds of opportunities as remote learning continues!“
One of the best highlights of the poetry session was the reading of “The Nueva Book of Questions.” Everyone joined in a communal reading of this innovative work that was inspired by author Pablo Neruda, taking turns reading couplets submitted by students. It was the perfect end to a perfectly poetic afternoon:
The Book of Questions
Does Mike Wazowski
blink or wink?
the first person to call an apple an apple
do we remember them?
When we forget something
did it ever happen?
What was it like
for the first bird to fly?
Do all birds speak
the same language?
Why is it two geese
But not two meese?
Where do birds go
when it rains?
Who cried that day
when rain first fell?
Where does the rain go
when the sun comes in?
What's a garden
Does the youth climb trees
to hide or seek?
people with once upon a time live happily ever after
but what if i never got my once upon a time?
why do people protest
basic human rights?
Are puzzles a metaphor for life
or are they just a fun pass-time?
Does everyone see the same colors?
Is my turquoise your cornflower blue?
If our reds are different
can I ever see things from your perspective?
Do spiders ever consider
the dreams of flies?
Do jellyfishes have eyes
so they can see their own graceful dances?
aren't we all messages in bottles
tossed at the whim of the open sea?
In the word scent,
Is it the S or the C that is silent
Why are there many seas
if they are all part of the ocean?
What did the sun do to scare the moon
so it hides in the shadows of the night?
Has the industrial revolution and its consequences
been a disaster for the human race?
When humans die
who will take our place?
If 2 + 2 = fish
is 4 my dinner?
Is it slightly salty milk
or very milky salt?
If you can only "discover" physical things and math is only a concept
then did the people who "discovered" math invent the concept of math?
What is infinite?
What is not?
What does it feel like
to be inanimate?
what is behind the mirror?
Does this human time out
equate to a reset for Mother Earth?
Who did that cigarette
What does a lifetime mean to a rock?
Is it mountain to pebble, or dust to dust?
What is this strange melody
tickling the edges of my eyes?
Is it wrong to feel comfort
in my meaninglessness?
Who would have thought that six feet apart
could feel like a world away?
Are there really
no bad questions?