Virginia Association of Teachers of English VATE

The drive from Purcellville to Roanoke is peaceful with crooked fingers of The Blue Ridge Parkway tempting drivers to turn off the main drag and swirl through the rolling mountains ablaze in fall color.  The VATE conference was well orchestrated highlighted by a wonderful presentation by a student performance group doing Suesical (spelling?).

On Sunday morning it was my turn to speak at the breakfast and Sandra Whitaker gave me the most beautiful introduction, part of which I am sharing below.  I’m not sure if this is a copyright violation, but she was kind enough to give me a copy so here goes.  Since I also knew that the next day she would be defending her dissertation, it was even double, triple touching that she took time to write this beautiful prose.
“Performance poetry has its own special kind of magic.  As words hand in the air, begging to touch the soul, the poet and the audience linger in a space between being and becoming.  when words break past our defenses, tingle our senses and move our spirits, we change, seeing reality  through a different lens or in a new way.”  She oh so kindly credited me with lending a hand in helping students and teachers “unleash the poet within, and to use performance poetry as a powerful way to understand academic concepts and the richness of life.  When children as her why she is teaching poetry , she says (and I do), “Because someday you will need it.  I can’t tell you when, but you will.”
Sandra writes that “poetry is truth”  affirming with her hard earned PhD and wise words what I have always felt, that the overwhelming majority of poetry is non-fiction.  “The funny encounters, the heartbreaks, the tragic losses, and the blessings . . . poems (and blogs) are a testament to how much the soul needs poetry.”  That it “isn’t the state standards, or lack thereof, that make us need poetry.  It isn’t  that old dusty books of poetry reside in many of our personal libraries.  We need poetry because it is through poetry that we express what we can’t say, that we shed the tears our eyes won’t cry, and that we dance life’s rhythms without tripping over our own feet . . . [Poetry] reveals our darkest secrets veiled in universal truth.  It is the common thread weaving together all of time and place, uttering what we dared not say, giving voice to the human experience.”  Where upon she quoted from my poem “If I were a Poem” and handed me the mike.
Follow that!  It was such a beautiful piece of writing, I wanted to just sit down and digest rather than talk.  Thank you so much for filling my heart with words of poetry put into paragraphs Sandy.  And thanks to Brent for lending his voice to a performance of a poem for two voices and to all the teachers who warm smiles and hugs welcomed me back to VA.  And I came home with a rock from Tinker’s Creek in hand and poetic words in my heart.  

One response to “Virginia Association of Teachers of English VATE”

  1. I heard you speak twice while I taught in Orlando. Your books were well loved by my students (bent out of shape, etc.).

    I used to close my poetry unit with a classroom coffeehouse. Each student presented a memorized poem and of course, had coffee and pastries. I memorized right alongside my kids, sharing "If I Were A Poem" one year.

    Thanks for speaking to children (and adults!)as you do.

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