by Brett Vogelsinger
One of my favorite poets I have discovered in the past few months is Ariel Fransisco. I've shared several of his poems with my classes, but one short piece that provokes some great conversation and writing is "Poem Written in the Parking Lot of a Tattoo Shop While Waiting For an Appointment." Sometimes when sharing a poem that is brand new to me for our Poem of the Day routine, is simply put the question to students: What do you notice? What should we talk about in this poem?
They are experienced readers of poetry by this point in the year, and invariably they find something I missed in my own reading of a poem.
In this poem, we end up talking about the speaker. Is this the speaker's first tattoo? Why is he getting one? Will he go through with it? The line "I'm in search of any kind of permanence" becomes central to our conversation.
I ask students "How many of you will likely get a tattoo someday? How many of you think you never will? Why? And why are tattoos so popular right now?" This could be a conversation or a writing prompt, but in the course of talking as a class, students began to tell stories of family members and their reasons for getting tattoos, some of which opened my eyes to people's quest for "permanence," often using tattoos to record a painful loss or deep devotion. These personal stories looped us back to talking about the speaker in the poem again.
Further Reading (out 4/21/20):
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth grade English teacher and NBCT at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA. He is the founding editor of Go Poems, facilitates his school's literary magazine, Sevenatenine, and contributes monthly posts at Moving Writers. Follow him on Twitter @theVogelman.