I posted Taylor Mali’s poem, Undivided Attention, the other day and found my way to his website. He taught for several years in the New York City school system and he has lesson plans on the site. I tried one with the students that examines the difference between the literal and figurative on Thursday.
Mali posed provocative questions and students wrote short paragraphs. Examples of these questions are “What happens to the dreams you don’t remember?”; “Which letter of the alphabet is the most intelligent”; and “Do leaves look forward to falling in autumn? Or do they hand on for dear life?” Students struggled as one of the instructions was to not explicitly name the thing in the question. They were to artfully describe their letter, the leaves, or what happens to dreams and present them in figuratively and not literally. There was a lot of conversation and some writing.
I took matters into my hands and wrote a short paragraph. I wrote on the fly so the language is a bit passive and words i.e. visage were not the right ones. Visage is French for face so would not have glanced around. When I model, I find the students make more progress.
“He frantically clung to life fighting a losing battle against nature and her forces. At wit’s end, he valiantly, vainly hung on not submitting to a cyclical reality. He sensed loneliness and not solitude. Assisted by gentle breezes his discoloured visage glanced furtively around. He was in this alone. His colleagues humbly had moved on ahead of him finding their way to become humus and rebirth in the next spring. What to do now? He realized this was not the end he had planned for and took his leave that autumn day. His job done and he wafted towards his destiny.”
Today, I crafted this into a poem. The language is a little more active and I hid the topic. The answer is in the tags.
Frantically he clings to life,
He wages a futile battle versus Nature,
Against all her marshaled forces.
Valiantly, he struggles,
Unwilling to let go,
He wages this vain battle.
He senses loneliness;
His, a solitary stance–
Today, a gentle breeze rustles only him;
His discoloured visage turns–
And, he glances furtively about.
Colleagues, long departed
Humbly headed home
They add a new, rich layer.
Silent humus and rebirth whispers,
Come, ready Mother Earth
Help prepare Her new garden.
Not the end he desired,
But, this past season’s calling is complete,
Wisdom speaks and he lets go.
Downward, he gently falls
And, his job is complete
Gracefully, he alights.