Teaching as/of Poetry

Last semester, I wrote a research paper titled, “Female Adolescents’ Perceptions of Themes Related to Identity Depicted in Artworks from Fantasy Fiction Novels”.  One of the novels was Princess and Curdie (1966), written by George Macdonald. I’m currently organizing my first year notes and journals and came across two passages that I’ve hand-written down, verbatim:

“The night came close and around them, clasping them in one universal arm of love, and although it neither spoke nor smiled, seemed all eye and ear, seemed to see and hear and know everything said and did” (p. 52).

“They were the happiest couple in that country, because they always understood each other, and that was because they always meant the same thing, and that was because they always loved what was fair and true and right and better – not than anything else, but than everything else put together” (p. 53).

These quotes reminded me of another line, this time from Shinji Moon –

“And so, remember, we are here to uplift each other”.

In my Poetry as Teaching class the past semester, we talked about the purpose of poetry recitation. I shared that in my high school 10th grade English class, I was required to memorize Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. I hated the exercise and found it meaningless. I mean, I hardly thought about love back then … only of simple understanding of academic achievement. What could’ve been a meaningful experience of inquiry about love became a task of rote memorization. How funny to have this poem return to me now. A classmate revealed she always found comfort carrying lines of poems within her, always ready to pluck out when the moment calls for it.

Since then, I’ve come to memorize the Sonnet 116 up to here:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when alteration finds,

Or moves with the remover to remove.

Oh no! it is an ever-fixed mark (…)”


Patrick Rosal’s thoughts on not knowing how to love or be loved:

“I guess it is a kind of failure not to learn how to

love and be loved, but I also think it’s

a kind of love to bear witness to love

itself: to pay attention to it, especially in

unlikely places and forms, to record it,

to struggle to write love down so

that it changes me. In that way, I

feel an incredible sense of wealth”.

I am incredibly wealthy, for I have been able to bear witness to so many instances of love.




It is near the end of April

And this light, a shade

Like burnt umber, has seeped

Through the blinds and diffuses to my arm and notebook and

Words. Will I ever learn to forgive

The sounds outside? Sounds of people

Working; progress. Breaking of grave,

Tar and cement, glittering new ground,

For us to walk on. Such progress

Cannot be silent. These men, early,

With their coffee and hard hats.

Today is a new day and our job

Is almost done.

Two questions and a thought: What gives you energy? What makes you lose energy? Most successful people have an edge of intemperance, especially in their first decade of working. You need a voracious appetite for failure to master anything truly interesting, said Charity Majors.

The Beetle That We Grew Together


One of the perks of having a sibling whose close in age is

That childhood joy becomes amplified.

There are certain parts of life that I see with sharp,

Vignetted clarity.


One afternoon,

In the center of the courtyard, we held the jar

Which held the meal worm

And finally it turned into a black glossy

Beetle. The color of our hair.

We’ve been feeding it carefully cubed apple chunks

Until it grew to be our healthy baby…

Today is the day.


4 walls close in on us

But nothing stood above us … only a gentle


A cumulus cloud.


We unscrewed the lid, held our breaths as she

Crawled upward carefully.


Before we got a chance to breathe out, she flicked

Open her wings as if

This was the moment she was born for –


And flew away as the light shifted beneath our feet.


In response to Mark Strand’s question: where are the waters of your childhood?

Where are the dusts of your childhood?

Where are the lights of your childhood?

Where are the clouds of your childhood?

See it so that


See it so that

You’ll have a warm house

That’s filled with the aroma of

Baked cookies on a Sunday afternoon

For friends who will come to visit soon.


See it so that

Your classroom is filled with natural light,

Children come in quietly

As if this is their home.


See it so that

You and the children will

Create a community garden.


See it so that

Every Saturday morning,

You’ll go grocery shopping with mom

Or Sunday evening, a movie night for dad.

Or dimsum before noon. We’ll rotate on

Choosing the restaurant, you’ll tell your

Sister and brother.


See it so that

Every summer you’ll travel

To somewhere and come back nourished

To the bone.

Ready to teach again in the Fall.


See it so that

You’ll never forget the crispness of morning air, the gravel’s warmth,

Moving images across the train’s windows, bright shadows playing on the floor,

Walls, across people’s faces as they close their eyes.


See it so that you’ll take care of yourself.

The prisms of summer light


Dazzling, dusk

Soft wood

Soft breathing

Grass shushing

Lungs are expansive

Take in all this air.

More, more!

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