Shoe on the other foot.

Yesterday I got to attend Steve’s excellent workshop, today it was my turn to be a presenter.  I gave a workshop on strategies to get students writing, filling in for a friend.  It’s a workshop I’ve done before, and I use the strategies all the time, so the material is very familiar, but I still find leading a workshop very nervous-making.  People tell me I appear to be the calmest woman in the world when I present, but that’s definitely not what I feel like on the inside!

Today went well.  There were a couple of moments when I wasn’t sure about the energy in the room, but I felt good overall, and got great verbal feedback and strong written evaluations at the end.  (I’m still trying to figure out the person who gave me low marks in “relevance to my program” but then wrote, “Can’t wait to try all these activities with my students!”  Go figure.)

Nicest bits of all: a guy who had attended one of my writing workshops in the past who told me about all the ways he’d used the activities and how successful they had been, and connecting with a couple of ladies — one new to the field, one  a veteran — with whom I may have some ongoing teacher-support contact.


Today’s poem is, yes, another tanka.  I’m not quite getting the form.  The idea is supposed to be to build up to the clear expression of an emotion, all five lines related, connected expressing one feeling.  I think I got closer with the two I wrote last April, and maybe even with the one I wrote for Mildred in January.  The three from this week seem a little off.   Maybe because the poems from yesterday and today are very “surface.”  Hmm … we’ll see what tomorrow yields.

April Shower Tanka

rain droplets line up
swell, join, spill over, run down
first forsythia
splashes gold against brownstones
springtime Brooklyn glistens, new

I started doing some reading about tanka.  Apparently, it is hugely popular.  There’s a Tanka Society of America and everything.   But someof the ‘rules’ I’ve read are mostly annoying to me.  All about how American’s should aim for 21 instead of 31 syllables, and how the number of syllables doesn’t really matter as long as the poem lines follow the short-long-short-long-long pattern, or maybe we should even throw out everything and just write five lines of free verse.  What is that?

I am stubborn, sticking with my 5-7-5-7-7.  There’s still plenty of work to do: the idea of the third line as a pivot point between the beginning and end of the poem, the whole direct expression of an emotion idea, rythmic balance …

(Stubborn, but hardly a purist.  It seems tanka are usually untitled, yet I — a woman who hates having to think up titles — have named every one!)


10 thoughts on “Shoe on the other foot.

  1. Ashley Dawn

    I’m glad the presentation went well. I feel very nervous standing up in a crowd like that. My mouth gets dry and I stumble on my words, it is something I need to work on.

    Wow I didn’t realized the tanka was so popular. It is not a style I am familar with, hopefully I will try to write one this month. I attempted to write a sonnet with my students today but I only got 2 lines.


  2. I really recommend the tanka. I’m not sure why it feels so comfortable, but I’m really enjoying working with it. One of the sites I read even recommends exactly what I’m doing: writing tanka daily to really get the feel. I’m curious to see if by month’s end I’ve got a few poems that really stand out …

    I’ve never been able to write a sonnet. I get hung up on the rhymes and the structure. Maybe I’ll try another one some day.


  3. It’s terrible, but I’ve stopped reading my teaching evaluations! They’re stacked in envelopes in my desk drawer…maybe I’ll take a look this summer. Generally they’re great, but there’s always one that gets to me, and then I obsess over it for days…still, feedback’s important, and it sounds like you wowed ’em! And thanks for the tanka formula–I might give it a try…


    1. Oh, I think it makes perfect sense not to read evaluations. I always obsess over comments, too. Like the people who said the workshop was fantastic and helpful and the hottest thing since the iPhone … and then only gave me 4 out of 5 in all the ratings. What, are they like those instructors who never give an ‘A’ even for exemplary work? Feh.


  4. juliebrock

    I’m with Zetta on reading evals. I get too hung up on other people’s opinions and start trying to please everyone – I find verbal evals with my kids work great. They give me constructive feedback that helps grow the class and aren’t too nasty :). So I’ll keep that going.

    I know that doesn’t work with adults as well and esp. in a conference setting, but actions (returners with practical feedback – it is working in my classroom!) scream much louder than words.

    I’m excited to play with the Tanka form. I’m not a poet by any means, but I love to read it, so keep going please!


    1. Oh, the “returners with practical feedback” eval method works just fine for me! I actually got a little nervous when I saw the return participant, thinking he’d be disappointed to see some of the same material again … but he was just as enthusiastic about the repeat activities as the new ones. That was nice.


  5. rain droplets line up
    swell, join, spill over, run down
    first forsythia
    splashes gold against brownstones
    springtime Brooklyn glistens, new

    Love this! I’m waiting for my forsythia.
    Bravo on your workshop!
    How is life without a slice a day?


    1. Forsythia bushes are always the true sign of the coming of spring for me. Growing up upstate, they were always the first thing to bloom. Here, there are a few things that come out before the bushes bloom, but I still wait for those sprays of yellow to really feel like the season has turned.

      I thought I needed a rest from daily posting, but I jumped right into another challenge: writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month, so I’m still racing to beat the clock!


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