making a fire in my hands.

Today Patrick Rosal posted the following open invitation as a Facebook status:

to transcribe by hand your favorite poem, take pic, post to fb and tag me.

Because he is smart and invariably has something interesting to say/teach us, I decided to try this.  Of course, I take issue with the “your favorite poem” part; is there such a thing? I love too many poems to consider just one my favorite. But for the sake of not being difficult, I chose Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” and transcribed it at lunch time, with the following result:

It was a good exercise. I have long loved this poem, ever since my second semester in BJ’s class, when I committed it to memory for recital in class. This exercise, though, forced me to slow down and take note of things I tend to rush through: the tension of the first four lines, the anticipation, the joy, the moment of almost-panic/almost-begging in the drugstore, and finally the last six lines, the beautiful image of making fire in one’s hands.

Pat mentioned that he was having his classes perform this same exercise each week with a different poem. What a committment to the poems! He also noted that at the end of the semester, the students would have a handwritten anthology, which of course made me think about crafting these for friends: small handwritten anthologies of favorite poems, hand-bound (come on, I have lots of bible-grade acrylic left after the Imprimatur project; what else can I do with it?).

If you have a spare minute, try this. It’s fun. It’s engaging. And I found myself more deeply involved in this Soto poem than I ever have been before.

1 thought on “making a fire in my hands.”

  1. Oh, my goodness. Love this idea. Love this poem even more – it’s one of the ones I have shared with middle-schoolers EVERY YEAR that I have taught. I’m so happy to hear that someone else loves it! (It is heavily anthologized at the middle school level, and one of the only poems in the textbooks that actually engages the students.)

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