Saturday, February 9, 2013

Poem Hunting All Along Black Creek Drive

The last few weeks have been exciting for me as a visiting poet at Amesbury Middle School in North York. My amazing grade six students (5 different groups!) and I have read and explored work by Bei Dao, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Gary Barwin, Langston Hughes and Christian Bök
—just to name a few! We created work together using the fragments of poems by John Ashbery and Anne Carson. We explored erasure poetry and created new poems using work by Canadian poet, Sina Queryas, as our source text. The results were stunning; some of the students illuminated their poems with drawings that would make William Blake shimmer with delight in his grave. 

Poem created using the text of What the river wants, by Sina Queryas 

When my students write, I write with them, and so I am pleased to report that I have a few new poems to add to my current manuscript-in-progress; the energy and enthusiasm of these young adults is wonderfully contagious and most of the work I am creating right now is thanks to them.

What else does a visiting-poet do in an enormous middle school in North York? Besides preaching poetry, that is? Well, let’s see. I get lost in the halls quite a lot. I lug slippery armfuls of poetry books around with me and get chalk all over my poetic black clothes. I enjoy sneaking multiple cups of cold coffee from the staff room. I jam-up the photocopier almost every time I touch it; the Amesbury photocopiers EAT poems and spit them back up. I eavesdrop on the teachers at lunchtime while pretending to read The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. It’s my dream job, folks!

And this week: a student who got kicked out of the class during my lesson approached me in the hall asking for the poems he’d missed. Two beautiful girls wrote a poem together and gave it to me to keep. A young man read “What Kind of a Person” by Yehuda Amichai to his classmates with outstanding gusto. Finally, I successfully directed four boys out into the hall after a scuffle emerged in the classroom after a “barber-slap"(a barber-slap is a light tap or slap on the back of the neck or head given to someone after they've had a haircut—!) escalated into a full-blown dance-party in the classroom.  Everyone and no-one saw what happened. I was shaken. The teacher was upset because she had only stepped out of the room for a few minutes. There were tears, giggles, reprimands, apologies. And then we got back to reading and writing. This is the beauty and privilege of being in the classroom; life and poetry intersect here.  Language is beautiful and alive. Breathing. Getting up on it’s feet.


  1. Aww, I'm proud to know you Shannon!
    Keep up the good work!!! hugs, Christie

  2. Shannon, your name popped into my head this morning and I was delighted to find your blog and see how well you are doing. It has been such a long time! All the best to you.

    1. great to hear from you van! hope you are well!