7th Graders Tackle Poetry

For middle school teacher Ashley Bitton, seventh grade language arts has been the biggest highlight of teaching in distance learning. Students have delved into short stories and even written their own. They have discussed agency, greed, and oppression in John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, and most recently have conquered poetry.

"This year’s class is so energetic, ambitious, discussion-oriented and easy going, that every lesson just comes alive even through our little Brady Bunch screens," Ms. Bitton said. "The past ten weeks have gone by fast!"

Students have been working in groups analyzing and trying to understand some difficult poems. From Whitman to Frost to Hughes to Angelou, students have identified literary devices, found rhythm and rhyme, and tried to understand the greater conceit of the poems. They have even written their own poems imitating their favorite poet’s poems. As an ode to October and pumpkin (everything) season, 7th grader Natalie Schaffer wrote the following poem, “Pumpkin Carving,” an imitation of “Blackberry Eating” by Galway Kinnell. 

Pumpkin Carving

I love to go out in late October
among the fat, grown, warm, orange pumpkins
to carve pumpkins at breakfast
the skin very hard, a penalty
they earn for knowing the orange art
of pumpkin carving; and as I stand among them
lifting the pumpkin up, the largest ones
feel almost unbidden to my hands,
as objects sometimes do, certain fragile objects
like glass orbs or eggs,
hard-skinned, delicate-firm lumps
which I poke, gut open, and gouge out well
in the calm, wet, warm, orange language
of pumpkin carving in late October.

-By Natalie Schaffer (‘22), Imitated from Galway Kinnell
Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, ice black blackberries
to eat blackberrie for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinches,
many-lettered, one syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in September. 

-By Galway Kinnell