More Brave Writer Teacher Picks: Our Favorite Poems

Our Brave Writer teachers have been poetry advocates for some time. Check out this 2008 Poetry Foundation article, Home Appreciation, which features teacher Karen Edmisten discussing how poetry showed up in her homeschool. Be sure to keep an eye out for another familiar face who shows up in the article!

We hope you are enjoying our teacher poetry picks! Once again, we've included an excerpt of each poem to whet your appetite. Click through the link to enjoy the full poem take advantage of the audio provided on many of these links! 

Karen Edmisten

Here's a most beloved poem that I have read and reread over the years—Richard Wilbur's "The Writer." It's exquisite. 

The Writer 
by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

Kate Foran

Here is a link to an article about one of my personal favorite poets and most dear and valued mentors, Connecticut poet Steve Straight. Fans of Charlotte Mason will appreciate Steve's sustained observations of details of the natural world, as the selected poems from the article above highlight. His poetic voice is humorous and accessible, but he is a true craftsman, with every word carefully chosen. His poems, like the wilds of his backyard, reward close attention.

'A Place For All Creatures': The Poetry of Steve Straight

I also love this one:

Good Bones
by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.

"Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye is another one I return to again and again:

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

This one is by another poet in my writing group, John Stanizzi:

by John Stanizzi

It begins with a mistake
while they are rushing through
what they call “busy work,”
some assignment you
find a drag as well,
having concocted it
so that you can tell
parents you wouldn’t permit
a lack of rigor to seep
into the classes you teach.

And this one by Mary Oliver. 

The Poet Dreams of the Classroom
by Mary Oliver

I dreamed I stood up in class
And I said aloud:

Teacher,  Why is algebra important?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed I stood up
And I said:

Teacher, I’m weary of the turkeys
That we have to draw every fall.
May I draw a fox instead?

Sit down, he said.

Sarah Holden

Well...I could go on and on with favorites but these two are at the top of the list:

For comfort:

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving   
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing   
as a woman takes up her needles   
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned   
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.   
Let the wind die down. Let the shed   
go black inside. Let evening come.

The depth of simplicity:

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

so much depends


a red wheel barrow

Sarah Small

I have SO MANY favorite poems! But here is one that is a "guiding light" poem, both in its entirety and the sections by themselves. A few notes about favorite lines:

Stanza 2: I love this stanza because I have been here so many times in my life and especially now as my children are moving out into the world and my parents are in their last years. The "breathless" is bittersweet, though. It's a suffocating kind of breathless, but at the same time I am breathless with gratitude and even anticipation. What will happen next? 

Stanza 4: Four simple lines that express how to live a life well. This stanza is especially alive in my head this week as I go through Keen Observation with my class!

Stanza 7: I love the imagery here: the rain, the sunflowers, the idea of roots growing deep and strong and alive. The essence of life!

by Mary Oliver


Something came up
out of the dark.
It wasn’t anything I had ever seen before.
It wasn’t an animal
or a flower,
unless it was both.

Something came up out of the water,
a head the size of a cat
but muddy and without ears.
I don’t know what God is.
I don’t know what death is.

But I believe they have between them
some fervent and necessary arrangement.

Next, I asked my kids, who are 17, 20, and 24, what poems they particularly remember me reading to them, and they all said SHEL SLIVERSTEIN. My daughter in particular remembered this one:

The Crocodile's Toothache 
by Shel Silverstein

The Crocodile
Went to the dentist
And sat down in the chair,
And the dentist said, "Now tell me, sir,
Why does it hurt and where?"
And the Crocodile said, "I'll tell you the truth,
I have a terrible ache in my tooth,"
And he opened his jaws so wide, so wide,
The the dentist, he climbed right inside,
And the dentist laughed, "Oh isn't this fun?"
As he pulled the teeth out, one by one.

Posted April 20th, 2018
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