When you can, try to experience exercises you give your students. Below is my draft/sketch of a poem, in response to a question I recently gave students. Using Rilke’s poem, “I live my life in growing orbits,” I asked them if they were “a falcon, a storm or a great song.” I asked them to answer in a poem of at least ten lines. Since they are relatively new to composing their own poems, they only received these instructions.
Later I will tell them that remembering a particular experience can start, or open up a poem. In this case, instead of choosing one of Rilke’s three images, I combined them–in a poem about an experience I had as a nine year old boy. This is a draft, remember. Typically, I do not share drafts so soon after they appear, but I did this time. As with many of my poetic sketches these days, I have the students partly in mind because I want to show them something about a specific assignment, or about poetry in general. It is hard to disconnect myself from this role, even when I try to write “for myself,” whatever that means.
With the wind and sun at my back,
I spread the bones and feathers
of my dark brown wings, as I pierce
the blue sky like an urgent arrow.
Like lightning, I pedal my young
frame to find my father.
I am a messenger in a storm of fear
that my mother’s mother is dying.
Keening and careening that Saturday morning,
I throw my bike to the ground
and sing my legs faster
than they think they can run.
My mother has sent me to the land
in between, where my grandmother also goes.