Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach
October 2003, Jossey-Bass
"Teaching with Fire is a glorious collection of the poetry that has restored the faith of teachers in the highest, most transcendent values of their work with children....Those who want us to believe that teaching is a technocratic and robotic skill devoid of art or joy or beauty need to read this powerful collection. So, for that matter, do we all."
Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace and Savage Inequalities
"When reasoned argument fails, poetry helps us make sense of life. A few well-chosen images, the spinning together of words creates a way of seeing where we came from and lights up possibilities for where we might be going....Dip in, read, and ponder; share with others. It's inspiration in the very best sense."
Deborah Meier, co-principal of The Mission Hill School, Boston and founder of a network of schools in East Harlem, New York
"In the Confucian tradition it is said that the mark of a golden era is that children are the most important members of the society and teaching is the most revered profession. Our jour ney to that ideal may be a long one, but it is books like this that will sustain us - for who are we all at our best save teachers, and who matters more to us than the children?"
Peter M. Senge, founding chair, SoL (Society for Organizational Learning) and author of The Fifth Discipline
Those of us who care about the young and their education must find ways to remember what teaching and learning are really about. We must find ways to keep our hearts alive as we serve our students. Poetry has the power to keep us vital and focused on what really matters in life and in schooling. Teaching with Fire is a wonderful collection of eighty-eight poems from such well-loved poets as Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, and Pablo Neruda. Each of these evocative poems is accompanied by a brief story from a teacher explaining the significance of the poem in his or her life's work. This beautiful book also includes an essay that describes how poetry can be used to grow both personally and professionally.
Teaching With Fire was written in partnership with the Center for Teacher Formation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Royalties from this book will be used to fund scholarship opportunities for teachers to grow and learn.
A Note to Our Readers by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner.
Introduction by Parker J. Palmer and Tom Vander Ark.
Hearing the Call.
Bob O’Meally’s “Make Music with Your Life” submitted by John J. Sweeney.
Marge Piercy’s “To be of use” submitted by Katya Levitan-Reiner.
Pablo Neruda’s “The Poet’s Obligation” submitted by William Ayers.
Gabriele D’Annunzio’s “I pastori” submitted by Susan Etheredge.
Emily Dickinson’s “The Chariot” submitted by Judy R. Smith.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” submitted by Marj Vandenack.
William Stafford’s “The Way It Is” submitted by Lisa Drumheller Sudar.
Walt Whitman’s Preface to “Leaves of Grass” [Excerpt] submitted by Lori Douglas.
Langston Hughes’s “Dream Deferred” submitted by Heather Kirkpatrick.
Marian Wright Edelman’s “I Care and I’m Willing to Serve” submitted by Linda Lantieri.
Cherishing the Work.
Billy Collins’s “First Reader” submitted by Sandra Dean.
Gary Snyder’s “Axe Handles” submitted by Curtis Borg.
David Whyte’s “Working Together” submitted by Jani Barker.
Marcie Hans’s “Fueled” submitted by Betsy Motten.
William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” submitted by Sarah Fay.
George Venn’s “Poem Against the First Grade” submitted by Theresa Gill.
Jeff Moss’s “On the Other Side of the Door” submitted by Lamson T. Lam.
Lydia Cortés’s “I Remember” submitted by Sonia Nieto.
Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” submitted by Troyvoi Hicks.
Gary Blankenburg’s “The Mouse” submitted by Ellen Shull.
Lewis Buzbee’s “Sunday, Tarzan in His Hammock” submitted by Dan Mindich.
On the Edge.
John Milton’s “Paradise Lost, Book VIII” submitted by John I. Goodlad.
Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” submitted by Don Shalvey.
Al Zolynas’s “Love in the Classroom” submitted by Ron Petrich.
Billy Collins’s “On Turning Ten” submitted by Chip Wood.
Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift” submitted by Kelly Gallagher.
Mary Oliver’s “The Journey” submitted by Marian Mesrobian MacCurdy.
Yehuda Amichai’s “God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children” submitted by Shifra Schonmann.
Jellaludin Rumi’s “The Lame Goat” submitted by Michael Poutiatine.
Linda McCarriston’s “Hotel Nights with My Mother” submitted by Wanda S. Praisner.
Lucile Burt’s “Melissa Quits School” submitted by Leslie Rennie-Hill.
Denise Levertov’s “Witness” submitted by Robert Kunzman.
Octavio Paz’s “After” submitted by Catherine Johnson.
Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” submitted by Elizabeth V. V. Bedell.
William Butler Yeats’s “Everything That Man Esteems” submitted by Betsy Wice,
May Sarton’s “Now I Become Myself” submitted by Amy Eva-Wood,
Annie Dillard’s “Teaching a Stone to Talk” [Excerpt] submitted by Libby Roberts.
David Whyte’s “Sweet Darkness” submitted by Jeanine O’Connell.
Rubin Alves’s “Tomorrow’s Child” submitted by Sarah Smith.
Donald Hall’s “Names of Horses” submitted by Laurel Leahy.
Judy Brown’s “Fire” submitted by Maggie Anderson.
Margaret Walker’s “For My People” submitted by Tracy Swinton Bailey.
In the Moment.
Elizabeth Carlson’s “Imperfection” submitted by Glynis Wilson Boultbee.
David Wagoner’s “Lost” submitted by Fred Taylor.
Wendell Berry’s “A Purification” submitted by Rick Jackson.
Marge Piercy’s “The seven of pentacles” submitted by Sally Z. Hare.
Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet” submitted by Catherine Gerber.
Gary Snyder’s “What Have I Learned” submitted by Perie Longo.
Wislawa Szymborska’s “There But for the Grace” submitted by Lesley Woodward.
Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” submitted by David Hagstrom.
William Stafford’s “You Reading This, Be Ready” submitted by Lucile Burt.
Edgar A. Guest’s “Don’t Quit” submitted by Reg Weaver.
Charles Olson’s “These Days” submitted by John Fox.
Donna Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem” submitted by Debbie S. Dewitt.
Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy” [Excerpt] submitted by Jim Burke.
Virginia Satir’s “Making Contact” submitted by Dennis Littky.
John Moffitt’s “To Look at Any Thing” submitted by Angela Peery.
Jellaludin Rumi’s “Two Kinds of Intelligence” submitted by Marianne Houston.
Adrienne Rich’s “Dialogue” submitted by Adam D. Bunting.
Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” submitted by Libby Falk Jones.
Maxine Kumin’s “Junior Life Saving” submitted by Thomasina LaGuardia.
Gary Soto’s “Saturday at the Canal” submitted by Steve Elia.
Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” submitted by Penny Gill.
The Fire of Teaching.
Wislawa Szymborska’s “A Contribution to Satistics” submitted by Elizabeth Meador.
E.E. Cummings’s “You Shall Above All Things” submitted by Mark Nepo.
Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” submitted by Caren Bassett Dybek.
Ranier Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” submitted by Rob Reich.
Robert Graves’s “Warning to Children” submitted by Ali Stewart.
Wallace Stevens’s “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain” submitted by Samuel Scheer.
Langston Hughes’s “My People” submitted by Mary Cowhey.
nikki giovanni’s “the drum” submitted by Sam Grabelle.
nila northSun’s “moving camp too far” submitted by Tom Weiner.
Czeslaw Milosz’s “Gift” submitted by Suzanne Strauss.
T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker” submitted by Stephen Gordon.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Shoulders” submitted by Marcy Jackson.
Bettye T. Spinner’s “Harvest Home” submitted by Linda Powell Pruitt.
Daring to Lead.
Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind Is Without Fear” submitted by Tony Wagner.
Barbara Kingsolver’s “Beating Time” submitted by Susan Klonsky.
Thomas Jefferson’s “Passage from a Letter to William Charles Jarvis” submitted by Theodore R. Sizer.
Robert Herrick’s “Delight in Disorder” submitted by Edward Alan Katz.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s “I Believe in All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken” submitted by Tom Vander Ark.
Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” submitted by Joe Nathan.
nikki giovanni’s “ego-tripping” submitted by Janice E. Jackson.
Anne Sexton’s “Courage” submitted by Wendy Kohler.
William Stafford’s “Silver Star” submitted by Jay Casbon.
Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” [Excerpt] submitted by Sandra Feldman.
Vaclav Havel’s “It Is I Who Must Begin” submitted by Diana Chapman Walsh.
Marge Piercy’s “The low road” submitted by Parker J. Palmer.
Tending the Fire: The Utility of Poetry in a Teacher’s Life by Sam M. Intrator.
About the Courage to Teach Program.
Megan Scribner is a freelance writer, editor, and program evaluator who has conducted research on what sustains and empowers the lives of teachers. She is the mother of two children and PTA president of their elementary school in Takoma Park, Maryland.
— Johnathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace and Savage Inequalities
"When reasoned argument fails, poetry helps us make sense of life. A few well-chosen images, the spinning together of words creates a way of seeing where we came from and lights up possibilities for where we might be going . . . . Dip in, read, and ponder; share with others. It's inspiration in the very best sense."
— Deborah Meier, co-principal of The Mission Hill School, Boston and founder of a network of schools in East Harlem, New York
"It is said in the Confucian tradition that the mark of any golden era is that children are the most important members of a society and teaching the most revered profession. Today, fear, anxiety, overwork, and under-appreciation characterize a great many professions, but few more so than teaching. Realism tells us that the journey to regain our sanity regarding children and teaching will be a long one. Passion tells us that the path to the future is the one we tread here, now. The editors of Teaching with Fire say it is to sustain teachers. I say it is to sustain us all— for who are we at our best save teachers, and who matters more to us than the children?"
— Peter Senge, author, The Fifth Discipline