A Day Bringing Poetry Alive

Today our middle school had the pleasure of working with two performers from Poetry Alive for the day. Anita and Alan (above) began the day performing poetry, then taught the students to perform, interpret, and compose poetry. It was a high energy, creative day enjoyed by all. They started the day performing favorites like " Paul Revere's Ride" and "Fifteen" by William Stafford. Then some students helped perform " Casey at the Bat" with audience participation. My favorite performance poem they did in the morning was:

On Turning Ten
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.

I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees.
I bleed.

Billy Collins

Students worked on performance with "Poem" by Langston Hughes and then were given a variety of poems to interpret in groups at end the day. Students shared their own original poems with our performers at break time and were excited to learn they could be chosen to publish on the Poetry Alive website. Many of you remember my passion for poetry, especially during National Poetry Month when I shared a poem a day. You can well guess I was in seventh heaven today.

Anita and Alan travel all over the United States with Poetry Alive. They were in San Francisco last week, then our rural northeastern Washington this week. They next head to Michigan, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. They love their jobs. You can learn more about Poetry Alive here.


  1. What a great day of poetry!

  2. Wow, what a great experience for your students (and for you!)

    I love that Billy Collins poem :)

  3. Hard to beat Billy Collins! What a wonderful day for the poets! Color me envious...

  4. How wonderful and I just love Collins!

  5. To all of you: I love Billy Collins also and was so glad they did a poem by him... nice segway to teaching it to my students.


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