Oakwood School is where my inner child would attend, if I lived in Southern California and could shed a few (::cough:: Okay, more than “a few”) years. It’s an independent K-12 school in Hollywood, and is, by all descriptions, just. fabulous. They certainly have creative, incredibly gifted teachers; it’s been my privilege to work with Diana and Michelle and their 6th grade language arts classes for the second year in a row now as they read MARE’S WAR, and respond to it, and then interview me. The questions are always thought-provoking and well-presented, and I feel the love when I do my virtual visits to their classroom. The warmth of their response to the book, and to me personally, is really, really heartening.
The combined language arts group have shared a couple of their poems with me – and I’m going to put them in a special permanent collection on my site – but first, I’d like to share them with you. Since I have more poems than Fridays in April, I’m going to share a couple today. The poems are copyrighted to the individual poets, which is why they are only being shared as-is on their collage sheets — please respect the integrity of the poets, and do not reprint these ANYWHERE without their permission.
The assignment was a collage plus a poem – and if you look at the photograph, there’s a “push me” at the bottom of the poem, where you can hear the poet read their own work. Ethan’s poem is a well constructed call-and-response structure, on the topic of expectations – his take on what Mare felt about her life.
If you’re not familiar with it, call-and-response is a well-known structure of the music of West Africa. It has filtered into African American music, and is used in jazz, blues, and gospel music. It is used in Christian churches as well, to elicit democratic communication. Imagine the speaker at church saying something, and all the people agreeing with an “Amen,” or a cantor singing a prayer, and the parishioners responding with a murmured, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Call-and-response is about leading your listener, a step at a time, toward a conclusion. It’s about participation, and I imagine this poem read out, as a paean to corporate grief, the sadness of a people. With lines like, “It hurts me that I am not treated the same way men are treated,” the female soldier rails against how unfair “this MAN’S Army” comes across to her. But the real kicker is the repeated response, “It hurts me that I expected any different.” Ouch. Lord, have mercy.
While Ethan explores Mare’s grief, Alex examines the literal and external command from Mare’s mother to “watch herself.” Alex watches Mare, through her daily chores and the grimness of her life. He writes imaginatively of Mare watching herself, commenting, “I’m not what I look like.” Mare, Alex wisely reminds us, is not just “helpless, bored, and poor;” there is more to her, and there is more to every single person we come across in this life.
My favorite lines echo an older, wiser Mare, perhaps speaking to Octavia and Talitha: “You never know what you’re up against/ So you might as well just watch yourself.”
I am, again, deeply privileged to have met these gentlemen poets, and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Oakwood Poetry selection! Until next week…
The Poetry Friday round-up is today hosted at Madigan Reads, and from the look of her site, she reads a lot! Drop by to discover more poets during this special National Poetry Month.