Poem for the Year

In addition to a motto, I like the idea of adopting a poem for the school year. If I’d chosen a poem for last year, it likely would have been “To Raja Rao” by Czeslaw Milosz. A few days ago, the poem below was included in the Writers’ Almanac email (which is a great way to ensure you read at least one poem a day), and I quickly decided it would be my poem for this year.

Increasingly, I hear people extolling the value of failure in learning and teaching. (It’s not a new idea, but it seems to be popping up recently.) That resonates with me to a degree, but I also struggle with finding ways to move forward after failure, either failure according to my expectations or others. I think what I like best about this poem is the way it imagines embracing failure without discounting the work and joy that came before.

state park june 10 040

 

IX.
by Wendell Berry

I go by a field where once
I cultivated a few poor crops.
It is now covered with young trees,
for the forest that belongs here
has come back and reclaimed its own.
And I think of all the effort
I have wasted and all the time,
and of how much joy I took
in that failed work and how much
it taught me. For in so failing
I learned something of my place,
something of myself, and now
I welcome back the trees.

From Leavings, 2010
Online in the Writers’ Almanac

If you were to choose a poem for the year, what would it be? If you need a place to start, poets.org is a great resource.

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