by Brett Vogelsinger
If you keep a writer's notebook with classes of young people, then you have heard the words "I have nothing to write" before. Sometimes, we (in our heads) write this off to a bad attitude in our our writers. But as we know from our own writing experiences, sometimes there are days when the words do not want to cooperate, and the empty page mocks our attempts to find something to say.
Professional writers feel this too, and the new poem "One of Those Days" by Jason Reynolds, published as part of his National Poetry Month writing project, captures this feeling well.
When your students say they have nothing to write about, encourage them to write about that feeling. Try putting words down that convey the failures or weaknesses or cacophony of words that will not fall into line. Students may even find it useful to borrow the opening lines of this poem: "There are days when . . . "
As I share this poem with my students this week, I realize that it will meet some of them finding relief from the pressures of school in their new, stay-at-home lives. Some will be having trouble staying motivated now that they know we will not be returning to our building this year. There are others whose pressures at home are intensified by this isolation. There are those whose parents work in health or public safety, and they fear for their parents' lives. There are some who will be deeply saddened by the sheer horror of a pandemic, and others who are trying to avoid the news entirely and escape into another world through reading, binge-watching, or gaming.
Every one one of them is navigating something new. So am I. So are you.
The words for this do not always flow. Right now, our lives don't always flow.
These experiences can steal our capacity to find words to express ourselves, and they can offer new reflections about which to write.
In this, the last Go Poems post of 2020, I'd like to thank you, our readers, for visiting the site, many of you on a daily basis, and sticking with us through the abrupt "swerve" of COVID-19. Our first post of this year was called "What is Worth A Swerve?" -- how fitting that now seems!
Keep reading poems and sharing them with your students. Words, carefully stitched and tailored as they are in poetry, can help us feel less alone, even when it is one of those days when we struggle to shape words into a poem of our own.
Take care, stay at home, and be safe.
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.