Slice of Life: This Is How The School Year Ends

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

In the short but provocative novel Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher, the classroom of sixth graders has a tradition that they enact whenever someone is set to leave the class during the school year (either by moving or some other event). They conduct a Rock Ritual. The way it works is that the student who is leaving chooses a mineral or stone from a class collection, and then each classmates passes the rock around the circle, telling stories of the student who is leaving. That student takes the rock with them, with the idea that the rock has collected the words, stories and memories.

When we read Flying Solo in the middle of the year, my class of sixth graders all asked if we could do our own version of the Rock Ritual at the end of this crazy Covid year. I said yes, of course, and this morning, on our last day together, we will gather in the classroom to have our ritual (using Ring Pops instead of rocks).

Yesterday, we spent part of our morning with a sheet of all of their names, writing down ideas for the stories we would tell.  (Frequent Question: Can we write about ourselves? Answer: Of course). You should have heard the noise and laughter, and sharing, even though I suggested we wait until today’s actual Ritual to share (this is a rather boisterous and louder-than-usual class of sixth graders that is relentless in its socializing).

I’ll have to circle around another day to really reflect on this year of teaching and learning in the Pandemic, and all that I have learned and wished I had learned, and everything else. For now, I will settle into a final act of Community in the Classroom, as we tell stories of our time together in a year like no other.

Peace (and tradition),

Writing Down in Lexington (PoMo)

A Bucolic Poem...!!!“A Bucolic Poem…!!!” by Denis Collette…!!! is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A National Writing Project friend, Deanna, mentioned the month-long LexPoMo (out of Lexington, Kentucky) so I signed up and have been sharing and reading and commenting with a bunch of other poets (lots of people in the mix). Fifteen days in, here are my poems (not sure what happened on June 1):

June 02, 2021 To New Eyes
June 03, 2021 Psaphonise
June 04, 2021 Tide Riders
June 05, 2021 Untethered Times
June 06, 2021 The River’s Footsteps To The Ocean
June 07, 2021 Bent Necks and Balanced Wings
June 08, 2021 Small World Explorer
June 09, 2021 Baby’s Eating Ink Again
June 10, 2021 Each Drop Drops
June 11, 2021 Redamancy
June 12, 2021 End Up Where They Will
June 13, 2021 The Poem Was In Your Pocket
June 14, 2021 Before The Hummingbird Sips
June 15, 2021 Memory’s Mad Curve Ball

Peace (and poems),

Book Review: Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing)

If you read books about music, as I do, then you likely know the name of writer Peter Guralnick, whose explorations of the blues, of Sam Cooke, of Sun Records, of Elvis, and many more go deeper than most books do to the heart of what music is and how strong the heart of performers beat.

In his recent collection of essays, entitled Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing), Guralnick keeps his attention on the music but also turns it on himself, too, as a writer who found himself on the music scene because of a passion and used his skills as an interviewer and a researcher to make visible the terrain of artists, particularly those from the South, and particularly those black artists whose work paved the way for rock and roll and modern music.

The book is a gathering of mostly shorter pieces, and some of the best take a look at the raw talent of Howling Wolf, the expansive innovative energy of Jerry Lee Lewis, and the soulful enigma of Solomon Burke, and much more. A consistent thread through the pieces here is the humanity and patience of Guralnick as he weaves in the stories and the impact these men (for they are all men that he looks at here) have had on American culture.

I also found the pieces about Guralnick as a writer intriguing, as he talks about his own feelings of inadequacy in talking with the musical greats he so admired, and how his father and grandfather (both doctors) supported his idea of being a writer at an early age, instilling confidence that following your passion will lead you somewhere (although sometimes, that somewhere is not always where you think your passion will lead you).

Peace (singing it),

CLMOOC Postcards After the Pandemic

CLMOOC PostcardsCLMOOC is ramping up its regular Postcard Project, connecting folks around the world through the mail. The prompt to consider is: what will you take and hold onto when the Pandemic is over?

You can learn more about the Postcard Project here.

I have ten postcards about to be sent out this week and as I mulled over the question (prompted by our friend, Karen F), I began to realize there are some aspects of the lockdown life that will make sense as we move forward into somewhat normalized times again.

Peace (on the post),

Book Review: Annotation

Annotation | The MIT Press

(Note: I was one of those people who took up an early invitation by the writers to add some thoughts via crowd annotation to an early version of this book)

Annotation and Curation seem to be critical skills and processes that might help us all thread together our disparate and often confusing online information flow in this modern age. When we annotate, we leave a trail of thoughts and discourse. When we curate, we pull those trails together in meaningful ways.

In the new book, Annotation, researcher/educators Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia (two people I know well from through the National Writing Project) explore the power of social annotation of texts through a variety of lens and make the case for a future in which our comments and conversations across platforms and texts could connect, and transform the way we think, learn, read and communicate with others.

Annotation Annotations

Comics made as annotation to Annotation

This small book from MIT Press has both historical references (the way annotations helped readers make sense or talk back to books in the margins of those books, that were then passed around communities) to the Talmud (religious text annotations across time) to the way annotation helps learners with reading comprehension and text questioning, through solo annotation (for oneself) and crowd annotation (writing in the margins along with others).

As someone who has used platforms like Hypothesis, Vialogues and NowComment and others to annotate with others on a variety of texts and media, and found the experience empowering and enlightening, I appreciated the many angles that Kalir and Garcia bring to the table in their book.

They raise critical and ethical questions of content ownership (does the writer of the text need to grant permission for online annotation?); whether platforms are texts and writing on those platforms, annotation (Is Twitter a text and tweets, annotations to that text?); how marginal voices might find a way to be heard amid so much noise of the world and power imbalance; and so much more.

Annotation will provide you with a deep look into how annotation has evolved into the digital age and leave you with the hopeful ideas that annotation has the possibility of pushing back against disinformation as well as becoming part of a larger quilt to reconnect our disparate online selves and words together, whatever the platform. And in doing so, Garcia and Kalir argue, the world might become a more interesting and more positive place to engage in with others, while solidifying your own presence.

There is a conversation underway about the book and ideas on Twitter with the #AnnoConvo hashtag.

Peace (in the margins),



Book Review: A Little Devil In America

I’d like to once again sing the praises of Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet and writer and podcast host, whose books, stories and essays — such as the ones that connect together in woven magic in his latest book, A Little Devil In America (Notes In Praise of Black Performance) — is insightful, emotional, unexpected and deeply attuned to the well of culture.

As a white, middle-class reader, I admittedly may not be his target audience here, as the world he unveils of Black dance, of Black music, and of family and neighborhood relationships is outside my own field of vision (the fault is mine, and maybe people like me, who too often fail to at least acknowledge the rich tapestry of the Black life beyond hip hop).

Abdurraqib’s expert creative command of language, of theme, and of connecting small parcels of story and history to a larger picture that then, quite suddenly and quite beautifully, narrows back to his own life at the end, in a scene between his brother and himself, is something to behold, and something to celebrate. Some chapters here read like poems and unfold like art.

What makes his perspective so interesting to me is his far-reaching love of music — from his discovery of the punk scene in his native Ohio to the emergence of Wu Tang in New York to a celebration of the artistry of Josephine Baker and Merry Clayton, and way beyond – and how he seamlessly shows how one can love a music, be part of that music scene, and still be separate from it, and how those conflicting elements, driven mostly by race, has long been at the heart of a conflicted America.

By the way, Abdurraqib’s podcast — Object of Sound — is also fantastic, as he chats with many creative artists on a variety of topics, some which resonate with this book and some with his other books. I still have to dig into his poetry, too.

Peace (sounding it out),