Poetry month at school

One of the many things I love about my kids’ school is how much time and attention the teachers give to learning about and celebrating poetry.  This year and last they spent nearly an entire month reading and writing poetry in the classroom – learning as much about the technicalities of poems as they do about the art of expressing themselves.

(let me point out here that my kids are only 7!)

Last year during poetry month they came home from school and asked if they could share my dad’s (Joe Salerno) poetry in their classroom.  I didn’t have to asked them to do it… I didn’t even suggest it!  They both decided they wanted to – because it made them feel special it to know their grandfather was a “real” poet and they wanted to share it with their friends!

After nearly an hour of flipping through his books, both of the kids decided on this poem.  It is a simple and short poem about eating wild blackberries, but the true magic of it of it is how my first-graders could so easily connect with it.  My daughter told me she could close her eyes and taste the blackberry while I read the poem out loud to them.  My son made me buy them at the supermarket the next day in his honor.

This year they both brought the same poem to class again, with the same enthusiasm and the same pride as last year.  And I couldn’t be prouder of all of them – of my kids and my father.

Here it is:

Eating Wild Blackberries in Lenapahoking

Ripe berries
dark purple and red
in sunlight:

the ripe ones
always at the farthest
tips of the branches
getting the first sun
to ripen early

– each body
a tight cluster
of berry fat
softening easily
in your mouth

You have to
concentrate
with your eyes closed
to understand
this quiet flavor;

each berry chewed
slowly, thoughtfully
to let the slight
shades of sweetness
reach your heart;

like a memory
only your tongue can remember
a distant taste
called “wilderness.”

2 comments on “Poetry month at school

  1. Therese says:

    So Lovely, such a rich & beautiful reflection of Joe. Thank You Miriam

    Like

  2. This is belated, so forgive me. I first met your Dad when he and I were both at Michigan. He was getting his PhD while I was getting my Masters. He had already won a Hopwood and encouraged me to enter–and I, too, was lucky enough to win the next year. After Michigan we stayed in regular contact via snail mail (no email back then), and when I moved to New York in 1984, we visited a few times at your house in New Jersey. The last time I saw him face-to-face was when he and I and David Tucker went to a Hopwood reception event in NYC, where Arthur Miller was speaking.
    I loved him like a brother and even respected him more. He was an exceptionally good soul and a greater writer, in the best sense of the word. He cared about the poems, not the business of poetry, and in that he too was rare and exceptional. Over the years he gave me (and countless others), encouragement and the wisdom of his careful reading of our work. To this day, some 19 years later (hard to believe), I still think about him almost every day and miss him. I would be delighted to hear more about your life since his passing, as well as about your brother and mother, if you’re so inclined. Thank you for the post.

    Regards,

    Peter Serchuk

    Like

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