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July 11, 2011 / johnoliversimon

CPITS 1979: The Great Teaching

California Poets In The Schools

Statewide Conference, June 2, 1979, at Anne Ziebur’s ranch in the Orinda hills. Permanant ranch time is 2:15. Discussion probably started around 10 am.

I ask the poets, teaching in K-12 schools up and down California, one question. In a collective trance, they reply around a circle cascading over the porch of the jerrybuilt magical ranchhouse under eucalyptus. Full name and county given whenever I recollect them.


What are you teaching?


Mary H.: Sensory perception leading to haiku.

Will Staple (Nevada):  A poet writes poems about where he is and what he is dreaming of.

Tobey Kaplan (Alameda): You can taste the peaches from a distance.

Lee Perron (Sonoma) : listen, listen, see, see

Bob Flanagan (Los Angeles): imagination

Bill Mohr  (Los Angeles): imagination on a dog collar, early memory, bizarre symphony of clapping hands / pigeons.

Kita Shanteris (Los Angeles):  Personal point of view. We’re exposing them to good poetry. Picture of ourselves: far away >>> zoom  in. From metaphor, exercise, the comiorting formula of routine, to what’s global.

Sarah Kennedy (Alameda): Go for the voice. Listen to the voice inside your head.

Jack Grapes (Los Angeles): Specific attributes the kids do without kinowing what they’re doing. At some point they leap into thinking I AM A POET and it’s magical, they’re hooked for life. Got to make sure they know WHY what they wrote is poetry, its relation to the world. How to BEGIN a poem: WHERE YOU ARE. Don’t think, see.

John Allen Cann (Santa Barbara): Begin with the unseeen, the invisible. Einstein: imagination is more important than knowledge.

C.B. Davis (Sacramento): the chant of words as music,  repetition causes rhythm. They gave you exercise: essence and parody.

Shelley Savren (San Diego, later Ventura): repetition and sound, diction, concrete details from noticing, stretching imagination, unique and unsuual language. Whitman: Now I will do nothing but listen…”

Katherine Harer (San Francisco):  inner language that is their own

Barbara Ruth  (San Diego): who I am, who are my people, my gang, what are my culture, my artifacts, Write under a pseudonym like Paclo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. One timid girl wrote as KILLER.

Michael Dow (Sonoma): Us long-term teachers find ourselves at some point doing an exercise, and the exercise becomes redundant, you realize you are writing poetry every day of your life, taking it home, ttramsforming your experience, so that the internal = the external language. An angry child in the bathtub calls on Mom to dictate a poem. Some of these kids begin in first grade and by second grade they are master poets. If they have to miss a class, they call each other to get the exercise. Every morning, between getting up and after breakfast, write a poem. A second-grader won the Napa City elementary-wide poetry award at the County Fair.

Anne Zeibur (Contra Costa): validation… when a strong statement comes into your mind, that’s usually the first line of a poem. The babble within becomes the only reality.

Roberto Bedoya (San Francisco): the taste of a letter. Correctness versus validation.

Mary Norbert Kórte (Mendocino): Robert Duncan’s notion of the mis-take, in the cinematic sense. You goof, learn from it, and then there’s take two.

Marilynn Talal (Marin):  the, and, adjective, adverb, oncrete and vague, effect of language on truth.

Lu Melander (San Mateo):  the pantoum. Tension and opposition.

Christopher Buckley (Fresno): there’s a language value to below-grade level students, an antidote to all the white sidewalks and tinted glass of poetry.

Robert Woods (Alameda): poems in historical contezt, Black people’s poetic ancestors.

Roberta: dancing was invented by Adam.

Paula Rath, later Gocker (Alameda): self-naming, forgettable face, boy who hears no whispers

Susan Kennedy (Marin): connecting to a voice. poetry: say something that you have no otber way to say it.

Mary Norbert Korte (Mendocino):  Continuation school: They ask for images, in adolescense, self-centered.

Carol Henry Dennis (San Francisco): after Continuation, there is no more protection for those teenagers.

Sharon Rose Cheadle (Stoctton): the inner journey of eighth-grade Daniel, who wrote “Blue is a shell when I can’t express myself”

Michelle Moore (Stockton): clown’s face, outside/ inside

Abby Niebauer (San Mateo):  chain letter

Robert Harris (San Francisco):  list of defiuitions, dolch word and meaning, when, what, I

Kit Robinson (San Francisco, Alameda): writing in lines, short lines, one word lines as Williams, stanza. Imagine the landscape as one color, nornally or never; a landscape in one mood, a portrait.

Alan Soldofsky (Alameda, Santa Clara): the poem backward and forward.


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