by Brett Vogelsinger
The poem "First Fig" by Edna St. Vincent Millay is so well-known it has become idiomatic. Whenever we say "I'm burning the candle at both ends," we are citing this tiny poem.
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
The poem speaks truth. Often when we are giving our loveliest light, it is at some expense. There is always the looming specter of burnout.
I find that students do not know this idiom, even though many of them, overscheduled and exhausted, already know inside what it means.
I share this image with them and ask, "When you 'burn the candle at both ends,' how does it burn differently than if you burnt it at one end?"
|Image source fineartamerica.com|
They quickly understand the point: the candle expires more quickly. We read this poem. We discuss what it means. We write in our notebooks some musing about what might help us to avoid burnout.
Friends, this is the final post in a six-year project. It brings the ideas on this site to a grand total of 180, an homage to Billy Collins wonderful poet laureate project, Poetry 180.
I'm burning the candle at both ends as we speak, in the throes of the biggest writing project I have ever tackled! This time next year, if all goes according to schedule, my first book will be out, published by Corwin. It's called Poetry Pauses: Using Poems to Improve Writing in All Genres. I hope you'll read it. It's a deeper dive into how teachers with or without a Poem of the Day routine can use poetry as a centerpiece in their writing instruction, a way to highlight the kinds of thinking and moves we value in every genre.
This blog will live on here, and perhaps in some other iteration with the content alive, well, and useful, I hope. The search feature should take you to specific poets, teachers, skills, and resources quite easily.
Thanks for being a reader of Go Poems. Take good care of your candle. Read good poems and share them.
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, author of the upcoming book Poetry Pauses
from Corwin Press, facilitates his school's literary magazine, Sevenatenine
, and contributes monthly posts at Moving Writers
. Follow him on Twitter @theVogelman