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Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach

Sam M. Intrator (Editor), Megan Scribner (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-787-96970-7 October 2003 Jossey-Bass 256 Pages


Reclaim Your Fire

"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.

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Gratitudes xi

A Note to Our Readers by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner xiii

Introduction by Parker J. Palmer and Tom Vander Ark xvii

Hearing the Call 1

Bob O’Meally’s “Make Music with Your Life” submitted by John J. Sweeney 2

Marge Piercy’s “To be of use”submitted by Katya Levitan-Reiner 4

Pablo Neruda’s “The Poet’s Obligation” submitted by William Ayers 6

Gabriele D’Annunzio’s “I pastori”submitted by Susan Etheredge 8

Emily Dickinson’s “The Chariot” submitted by Judy R. Smith 10

Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”submitted by Marj Vandenack 12

William Stafford’s “The Way It Is”submitted by Lisa Drumheller Sudar 14

Walt Whitman’s Preface to “Leaves of Grass” [Excerpt] submitted by Lori Douglas 16

Langston Hughes’s “Dream Deferred”submitted by Heather Kirkpatrick 18

Marian Wright Edelman’s “I Care and I’m Willing to Serve”submitted by Linda Lantieri 20

Cherishing the Work 23

Billy Collins’s “First Reader”submitted by Sandra Dean 24

Gary Snyder’s “Axe Handles”submitted by Curtis Borg 26

David Whyte’s “Working Together”submitted by Jani Barker 28

Marcie Hans’s “Fueled”submitted by Betsy Motten 30

William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” submitted by Sarah Fay 32

George Venn’s “Poem Against the First Grade”submitted by Theresa Gill 34

Jeff Moss’s “On the Other Side of the Door”submitted by Lamson T. Lam 36

Lydia Cortés’s “I Remember” submitted by Sonia Nieto 38

Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” submitted by Troyvoi Hicks 40

Gary Blankenburg’s “The Mouse” submitted by Ellen Shull 42

Lewis Buzbee’s “Sunday, Tarzan in His Hammock” submitted by Dan Mindich 44

On the Edge 47

John Milton’s “Paradise Lost, Book VIII” submitted by John I. Goodlad 48

Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen”submitted by Don Shalvey 50

Al Zolynas’s “Love in the Classroom”submitted by Ron Petrich 52

Billy Collins’s “On Turning Ten”submitted by Chip Wood 54

Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift”submitted by Kelly Gallagher 56

Mary Oliver’s “The Journey”submitted by Marian Mesrobian MacCurdy 58

Yehuda Amichai’s “God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children”submitted by Shifra Schonmann 60

Jellaludin Rumi’s “The Lame Goat”submitted by Michael Poutiatine 62

Linda McCarriston’s “Hotel Nights with My Mother”submitted by Wanda S. Praisner 64

Lucile Burt’s “Melissa Quits School”submitted by Leslie Rennie-Hill 66

Holding On 69

Denise Levertov’s “Witness” submitted by Robert Kunzman 70

Octavio Paz’s “After” submitted by Catherine Johnson 72

Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”submitted by Elizabeth V. V. Bedell 74

William Butler Yeats’s “Everything That Man Esteems”submitted by Betsy Wice 76

May Sarton’s “Now I Become Myself”submitted by Amy Eva-Wood 78

Annie Dillard’s “Teaching a Stone to Talk” [Excerpt]submitted by Libby Roberts 80

David Whyte’s “Sweet Darkness” submitted by Jeanine O’Connell 82

Rubin Alves’s “Tomorrow’s Child” submitted by Sarah Smith 84

Donald Hall’s “Names of Horses” submitted by Laurel Leahy 86

Judy Brown’s “Fire” submitted by Maggie Anderson 88

Margaret Walker’s “For My People” submitted by Tracy Swinton Bailey 90

In the Moment 93

Elizabeth Carlson’s “Imperfection” submitted by Glynis Wilson Boultbee 94

David Wagoner’s “Lost” submitted by Fred Taylor 96

Wendell Berry’s “A Purification” submitted by Rick Jackson 98

Marge Piercy’s “The seven of pentacles” submitted by Sally Z. Hare 100

Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet” submitted by Catherine Gerber 102

Gary Snyder’s “What Have I Learned” submitted by Perie Longo 104

Wislawa Szymborska’s “There But for the Grace” submitted by Lesley Woodward 106

Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” submitted by David Hagstrom 108

William Stafford’s “You Reading This, Be Ready” submitted by Lucile Burt 110

Edgar A. Guest’s “Don’t Quit” submitted by Reg Weaver 112

Making Contact 115

Charles Olson’s “These Days” submitted by John Fox 116

Donna Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem” submitted by Debbie S. Dewitt 118

Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy” [Excerpt] submitted by Jim Burke 120

Virginia Satir’s “Making Contact” submitted by Dennis Littky 122

John Moffitt’s “To Look at Any Thing” submitted by Angela Peery 124

Jellaludin Rumi’s “Two Kinds of Intelligence” submitted by Marianne Houston 126

Adrienne Rich’s “Dialogue” submitted by Adam D. Bunting 128

Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” submitted by Libby Falk Jones 130

Maxine Kumin’s “Junior Life Saving” submitted by Thomasina LaGuardia 132

Gary Soto’s “Saturday at the Canal” submitted by Steve Elia 134

Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” submitted by Penny Gill 136

The Fire of Teaching 139

Wislawa Szymborska’s “A Contribution to Statistics” submitted by Elizabeth Meador 140

E.E. Cummings’s “You Shall Above All Things” submitted by Mark Nepo 142

Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” submitted by Caren Bassett Dybek 144

Ranier Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” submitted by Rob Reich 146

Robert Graves’s “Warning to Children” submitted by Ali Stewart 148

Wallace Stevens’s “The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain” submitted by Samuel Scheer 150

Langston Hughes’s “My People” submitted by Mary Cowhey 152

nikki giovanni’s “the drum” submitted by Sam Grabelle 154

nila northSun’s “moving camp too far” submitted by Tom Weiner 156

Czeslaw Milosz’s “Gift” submitted by Suzanne Strauss 158

T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker” submitted by Stephen Gordon 160

Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Shoulders” submitted by Marcy Jackson 162

Bettye T. Spinner’s “Harvest Home” submitted by Linda Powell Pruitt 164

Daring to Lead 167

Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind Is Without Fear” submitted by Tony Wagner 168

Barbara Kingsolver’s “Beating Time” submitted by Susan Klonsky 170

Thomas Jefferson’s “Passage from a Letter to William Charles Jarvis” submitted by Theodore R. Sizer 172

Robert Herrick’s “Delight in Disorder” submitted by Edward Alan Katz 174

Rainer Maria Rilke’s “I Believe in All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken” submitted by Tom Vander Ark 176

Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” submitted by Joe Nathan 178

nikki giovanni’s “ego-tripping” submitted by Janice E. Jackson 180

Anne Sexton’s “Courage” submitted by Wendy Kohler 182

William Stafford’s “Silver Star” submitted by Jay Casbon 184

Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” [Excerpt] submitted by Sandra Feldman 186

Vaclav Havel’s “It Is I Who Must Begin” submitted by Diana Chapman Walsh 188

Marge Piercy’s “The low road” submitted by Parker J. Palmer 190

Tending the Fire: The Utility of Poetry in a Teacher’s Life by Sam M. Intrator 193

About the Courage to Teach Program 213

The Contributors 215

The Editors 225

The Center for Teacher Formation Discover more resources for educators and leaders of all kinds at the Center for Courage & Renewal (formerly the Center for Teacher Formation). Royalties from Teaching with Fire help more people become a force for positive change in the world, as well as in the lives of the people they serve.