ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via French from Italian gazzetta, originally gazeta de la novità (because the news-sheet sold for a gazeta, a Venetian coin of small value)

Friday, May 6, 2011

This is Just to Say…

that I love the poetry of Williams Carlos Williams. Through teaching, I have come to know Williams and his poetry better than I ever did before, and I am in love. Even more, I have been able to transfer some of this passion to my third and fourth grade students. They love this poetry, too.

Although I've been introducing students to Williams' poetry now for years, I have just recently started using a wonderful book about his life to enhance their experience. It is Jen Bryant's A River of Words, The Story of Williams Carlos Williams. This wonderfully illustrated, mixed-media picture book / biography (ill. Melissa Sweet) helps my young students understand a bit more about how Willie broke out of traditional poetry forms to find his own voice. They understand that although he was a medical doctor who delivered babies, set broken arms, and tended to the sick in his community, he was first and foremost a lover of words, of sounds, of images, that he was atuned to everyday, commonplace happenings. He followed his innermost calling by writing poetry throughout his life… as a family doctor! My students particularly love the picture of Willie up in his attic, late at night, with his typewriter, surrounded by pieces of paper filled with interesting words and phrases, tacked up on the walls. They love that from these bits and pieces, he pulls out the one or two or three words and ideas, and distills them into a pithy poem.

Children are natural philosophers, and the Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow" opens up discussions that make them think, and ask "Well, what really depends on what?"

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white 

And while studying the following poem, the students and I talk about relationships, complicity between people who know each other well, temptation, pleasure, and trust. 

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet and 
so cold

After studying and memorizing this poem, the students use it as a model for writing their own "This is Just to Say." Here's one by Sami (8 years old):

I have taken
the soccer ball 
that was on
the field

and which 
you were probably
for the big game

Forgive me
it was incredible
so bouncy
and so hard


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