The Poetry of Goodbye


On Tuesday, I said goodbye to my freshmen classes for the semester. They started in week 4 and ended in week 13, so I only had 10 weeks with them this semester. Our time together started with me in tears and all fifty of them in the wrong classroom. (Also, a man smoking a cigarette inside came to our class and yelled at us in Chinese but then left…) Our last day was much better than our first day.

Instead of taking a final exam, my students read poems that they found from the Poetry Out Loud website. I had students choose their own poems and then mark the poems for stressed words (function words like nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, question words, interjections, and negative auxiliary words). Then students got up in front of the class and read their poems.

They treated me to a range of poems from “She Walks in Beauty Like the Night” by Lord Byron to “300 Goats” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Students even found poems I’d never heard before but fell in love with. For example, “Sad Boy’s Sad Boy” by Charles Bernstein, “Late Summer” by Jennifer Grotz, and “Waving Goodbye” by Gerald Stern are poems I will re-read on my own later thanks to my class. I even had the joy of listening to a poem by Vachel Lindsey who I am mostly familiar with because of his support for Langston Hughes.

Unfortunately, my time with the freshmen ended, and I will not see them again until next semester. But as we left the classroom, the first snow of the season started to stick on the sidewalk. Some of the students were seeing snow for the very first time, and everyone had cellphones out to photograph the moment. That is poetry enough to last until spring.


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