April 20

Poetry

When I first saw this cloud shape as I was walking this evening, I thought of a Boeing 747, the ultimate “jumbo jet,” an aircraft we seldom see anymore. As a young adult, I admired them as the princess of the sky, and even flew on a few.

As I continued my walk, the cloud began disintegrating. My last glimpse was of this:

A sense of melancholy overtook me, as my mind turned to September 11, 2001, “9/11.” I believe all of the aircraft involved in that terrorist attack were smaller ships, but nonetheless had a strong association. Perhaps this is because of our current situation, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on our lives, our well-being, and our economy.

Once again, I took an idea from my #CLMOOC friend Kim and created a poem with only single-syllable words. Hers was inspired by waterfall poetry, mine is just… mine.

I see
a shape
a plane
no
a cloud
I think of
large craft
men in suits
wives in heels
glam, safe
then
nine-one-one of two-oh-oh-one
crashed
stunned
pained
dazed
slow mend
now
two-oh-one-nine
germs
ill
spread
dead
fear
lone
no trust
sad

 

April 23

Intersections of poetry & improv

My friend Kim recently wrote about how she and her students were writing poems using inspiration from three words provided by the students. She describes how in the first iteration, the poems were very literal in their interpretation. Kim then worked with the students to brainstorm imagery related to the words. Finally, she challenged them (and herself) to write a poem using the three words without the poem being about any of the words. As she understates, “[t]his was much more difficult!”

Kim’s observations parallel the learning process of improv, a new-ish endeavor of mine. At the beginning of a set, the performers typically ask the audience to provide one or more words that are then used as inspiration for creating scenes and story lines. Just as Kim describes, emerging players often create scenes that stick close to the literal words, whereas more experienced players use them truly as inspiration and wander much further afield in associations and connections. As a result, their scenes are richer and more satisfying, to both the performers and the audience.

Developing any new competence takes time, practice, encouragement and constructive feedback. I’m fortunate to be learning to perform improv at a studio which swarms with supportive, encouraging instructors and fellow performers. This nurturing environment is part of the culture, fostered by the owner and artistic director.

In our schools, we have the same opportunity, and responsibility, to develop and sustain a culture which encourages students to grow into their full potential.