Poetry Friday – Bridge the Difference

This week in the Sealy Challenge, I read just one book: Bridge the Distance: Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance (An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems).  You can read the PDF version free here or purchase a copy at cost, thanks to Oklahoma State University. Published in 2021, Bridge the Distance is a collection of poems by 38 teacher-poets who wrote during the COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020. Margaret Simon and Linda Mitchell, and I each have poems in the book. We wrote them at Ethical ELA, hosted by Sarah Donovan.

Reading the poems all at a time this week, I was struck with the memories of the lockdown that were stirred by this interesting history of thought from just 2.5 years ago.  I rejoiced that this oral history project will be available for future generations. Not all of the poems are about COVID, but certainly in a good portion of them the teachers obviously have on their minds the pandemic and teaching through the lockdown.  I gathered some of the lines that resonated with me and created this cento poem today. (The lines and the poets are listed below in the order they appear.)

In the Safe Spaces

In the safe spaces of your hands
Die, right or wrong, longing for an end to this
It was the first day of school
a child’s fingers hold her face before a screen
A school with no pulse or heartbeat
I need an elixir, a potion
Love thy neighbor is spelled w-e-a-r   a   m-a-s-k
knotted, left your song unsung
Now a squinting shadow
with the whirring blur of white noise fan
where I am sheltered in place
Say we watch the world end from our couch
the good, the bad, and the wildly fanciful and unexpected
sunset serenade

Teacher Poets
“Free Writing” by Stacey Joy
“Incorporating ‘We Real Cool’ by Gwendolyn Brooks” by Donnetta Norris
“Indelible Moments” by Denise Hill
“The Duplex of Virtual Teaching” by Margaret Simon
“Abandoned” by Emily Yamasaki
“Cocktail Hour” by Susie Morice
“2020 Duplex” by Linda Mitchell
“I am COVID” by Susie Morice
“Almost Asleep” by Kimberly Johnson
Strangerfriends” by Susan Ahlbrand
“Borrowed Lines” by Betsy Jones
“Dear Lauryl” by Lauryl Bennington
“Barnyard Concert at Dusk” by Kimberly Johnson

Coincidentally, over at Ethical ELA, we are beginning our monthly Open Write this weekend. You are welcome to join us for this special group that Susan Ahlbrand called “Strangerfriends” about whom she writes:

I am awed by the vulnerability others show
the raw sharing of abuse
the honest telling of fears
the open storytelling
the beautiful describing

with strangerfriends

I’ve often been skeptical of stories
of people finding “friends” online…

Not anymore

~From “Strangerfriends” by Susan Ahlbrand

Today is Poetry Friday. Dave at Leap of Dave is hosting. Head on over there to discover castles in the forest and poems today.

7 thoughts on “Poetry Friday – Bridge the Difference

  1. Hooray! This is such a wonderful book. And, tomorrow we get prompts! See you soon.

  2. Thanks for sharing your cento, Denise. Memories of that time are important to share and save for future generations. It was so many different things to so many people and your poem shows that.

  3. Hi Denise! Thanks for sharing about this new book & with you & others I know having poems in it. What an unruly time that was! Have a nice weekend!

  4. Denise, that’s a neat cento. When I make centos, I so appreciate the opportunity to study the poems again. Thanks for sharing the link to the book, too. A free PDF is awesome.

  5. Denise, thank you for your cento that moved my spirit as I think of the many years past of the first days of school. I enjoyed the interesting juxtaposition of these lines:
    A school with no pulse or heartbeat
    I need an elixir, a potion
    Congratulations on having your sensitive poems in the anthology that you so willingly shared. I poured through some poems and hope to spend time with others.
    Have a wonderful summer day and enjoy your grandmotherhood status.

  6. Your cento is wonderful. You wove the lines together beautifully and made the form look effortless. “A school with no pulse or heartbeat” really got me. Congratulations on being a part of this anthology!

  7. Wow! I hang out with some of these folks regularly and I did not know about this anthology (even though I’ll recognize some of the poems). Cool idea to reflect on your Sealey reading through a cento. How is it 2 and a half years ago? Why does it feel like eons ago and also yesterday?
    “Now a squinting shadow
    with the whirring blur of white noise fan”
    in my face?

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