The more I become a teacher who writes, the more I realize how important writing is to my teaching. When I started this blog, writing expanded my ability to reflect on my teaching practice. When I wrote, I saw details more clearly. What had once been fuzzy, partly-formed thoughts or observations became more firmly fixed. I still held my ideas gently because I wanted room to grow and change, but they became more clear – kind of like dew on a spider web.
Next, writing (and especially publishing) forced me to confront the complexity of what I was asking my students to do. For the first while after I started sharing my writing, I continued to assign mostly analytical essays, but the more I wrote, the more I realized the importance of practice, of revision, and of voice. Obviously I *knew* all of those things, but I hadn’t lived them for a while. The more I wrote, the more I realized how much more space I needed to offer my students in their own writing lives. These days we write all kinds of things and I strive to offer assignments rooted in purpose and audience.
Recently, I’ve been trying my hand at poetry. For me, this feels like the ultimate writing challenge. I mean, sure, I can write a good email and tell a good story, but POETRY? That’s for *real* writers. Like any good English teacher, I have poems I love, but secretly I’ll tell you that I find some completely confounding. And yet… I teach poetry, and I *want* to teach poetry. My blogging buddy Glenda Funke said once (in a comment? a message? I can’t find it, but I remember it) that writing poetry really helped her understand it and teach it. I believed her, but I wasn’t ready to do it. And then… well, I’ve been messing around with it during the pandemic, using poetry to let myself play, let myself write badly, let myself get frustrated and work it out. I start things and abandon them, then come creeping back. I hack away at it, and I have to admit that it’s kind of fun. So, in honour of my students, who regularly share with me work that they hate, that’s half-finished, that’s outside of their comfort zone, who turn in word after word, line after line, paragraph after paragraph , I’m going to write and share poems. (Not every week – don’t get excited.)
Today, inspired (as I often am) by Ethical ELA’s monthly Open Write, I have tried a Tritina.
Mid-October and still no killing frost.
The tomatoes still strive towards red,
heedless of the Fall.
Around the vine, leaves fall
As the trees, preparing for the inevitable frost
shed yellow, orange, gold, red.
Earlier and earlier every evening the red
sun descends toward the horizon, its fall
portending what is to come: frost.
Nightly, I beg the frost to allow one more shimmer of red before white death falls.
13 thoughts on “Tritina: Fall”
Love that you’re sharing something that feels a little out of your comfort zone, Amanda! Doing this helps you help your students. (At least that’s how I’ve always felt when I do something that’s out of my comfort zone in writing.)
Your poem leaves me envisioning what fall looks like in Ontario right now. I bet it’s a lot more colorful down in my neck of the woods. (This week, at least.)
Thanks for doing this writing in all its styles.
I love the poem! I used to be better at writing poetry because I was better at making sure I practiced! When I started participating in the Slice of Life challenge there was also a “Memoir Monday” challenge and a “Poetry Friday” challenge. I wrote a poem every week. Some were good. Some were not. But it was fun and I enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more of your poems here.
I love your poem! And your thoughts about how engaging in the writing allows you to understand it better and teach better. Such important ideas!
Aw, I’m honored to find myself referenced in your post today, and I live your Tritina, which I have not yet written because I’m hiding in the closet w/ my dogs while our old tile is demoed. When I coached debate I encouraged students to try events outside their expertise because I believe that strengthens them in their strong events. My philosophy is similar to athletes who minor in some sports while majoring in one. They do this to use muscles their sport doesn’t prioritize, and that strengthens them. I think the same is true for writing. Penning poetry makes ya better essayists.
It’s hard to tap out a response while lying in a dog bed—literally.
Before the poem, I love you as teacher and writer- how reflective you are about how writing makes you a better teacher of writing. Part of that is doing the work we ask of our students- so we can empathize… which you clearly do here. Your students are lucky to have such a dedicated teacher. Your poem reminds me of our zucchini plant- we gave up our tomatoes to the squirrels months ago! But our zucchini has been the summer gift that keeps on giving. We also keep holding on for just one more… hooray for teacher who write!!!
It’s fascinating to me to think about how one decides to sit down and write a poem. Most of the poems I have written have been composed mentally while walking, thought about on awaking, or puzzled out for a long time before my pencil ever hits the paper. Maybe that says something about my writing fears. I am inspired by your work ethic toward poetry and look forward to reading many more! There’s power in your use of the color “red” and the reference to “death” in the last line.
Love the open write! So glad you shared! Always a pleasure to read your posts
I misread your title as Tritons fail. Ha! This is anything but a fail. I can’t believe you are tackling such a challenge as a novice poet. Looks more like you’ve been writing poems for years.
The power of teacher (really person) as writer is so clear in this post. Writing leads to reflecting, finding more clarity, but remaining open to new ideas, and having the guts to take on something new and challenging. The time you’ve spent working on poetry has certainly paid off! Your poem is making me think about the current “second wave” of COVID-19 that seems to be sweeping the world. I feel like I’m holding on to the days before it comes again and closes us down.
I could sign your first sentence. And I can relate to your feelings about poetry writing. I call my poem attempts “poemish.” I enjoyed your reflection, the details, the honesty, the emotion. I am still expanding my repertoire of poetry structures. Tritina is new to me. Your poem wonderfully carries the expectation/trepidation of frost.
This is beautiful, Amanda! I hadn’t seen this poetic form before, so am looking forward to trying it out myself. Bravo for sharing your poetry; I’m going to have to get up the gumption to do so myself.