Making of a Poet

I sit here moved by words my students just spoke.

A rough day. A scolding.  Confusion. A move toward true self. 

And the inability to say the right words to get people to understand that you really are

t  r  y  i  n  g.

Remember that? Middle school is a nightmare.

And I promised myself way back when that I would remember what it felt like to navigate the thoughts, desires, curiosity and helplessness that simply IS growing up.

No one wanted to answer anything, but they wanted to tell you what to do.

No one wanted to listen to you, but they told you who you were.

You didn’t even know who you were! Who you were becoming…

I took to the page.

Created worlds to figure it all out.  Planted characters with the personalities I wanted to try on for size and turned them loose in composition notebooks. In this way I figured out where paths could lead. Penned dramatic dialogue and smart-aleck come-backs and set my ear against interior monologue to figure out what I thought about the world.

Not my parents or my friends or my teachers — but me.

What did I think?

And this was the making of a poet.


I turned my attention to the next generation.

First the pen and then the reminder that words create what is spoken the moment they are unleashed.

First my guiding hand helping shape the first line and then the permission to run off the page in hard, deliberate zig-zags.

First a red-ink suggestion and then the push to ignore it if it doesn’t help say what they mean.

And this morning, checking my classroom blog, I found one of my poets had stepped onto an empty stage, checked the mic for sound and belted lines in blue.

A teenaged anthem that simply began: Why do I not feel free?

And I caught my breath

Witnessing his beginning

Watching him recoil at his own voice bouncing off the walls

Feeling his resolve in delivering the next line anyway

Catching his eye as he stared down the shadows sitting center stage

Holding back tears and applause at the last line hanging hauntingly in the air

Left for the listener to figure out.

He faded with the house lights

—A poet


One thought on “Making of a Poet

  1. this is why i became a teacher. i have been in the trenches for so long that often, so busy fighting to get through another day on the battle field, i forget. thanks your for reminding me.

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