Dyslexia Awareness Month

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Note to the Teacher

Dear Miss Sinclair,
I’m sorry
I made that loud farting noise
after you’d told me
to stop
three times already.
I’m sorry
I fell out of my chair
and everyone laughed
so hard
that Louis and Elijah
fell out of their chairs too.
I’m sorry
everyone stopped listening
to you
explain about our new
spelling words.
It’s just that I suck
at spelling
and I don’t understand why
an O makes
so many sounds.

 

This summer we realized that one of our kids has dyslexia. We just couldn’t understand why our bright boy was so stressed about school. Now we know. We didn’t realize he has dyslexia because he reads. That’s one of many common myths about dyslexia. Once we heard the news I started studying. I quickly realized our son had many common signs of dyslexia–shockingly poor spelling, a terrible time with handwriting, writing far below his abilities, and low self-esteem. If I’d known a little more, I could have saved our boy from years of feeling badly about himself. So today I want to share this poem, and I want to share this link to a list of a wide variety of symptoms. Please take a look. It’s worth knowing the signs.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day.

Metaphor

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, Oct. 2008.  (Wikimedia Commons)

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, on Oct. 20, 2008.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Collins was a guest on the Diane Rehm show this week. It was, as always, a pleasure to hear his voice reading his poems and talking about poetry and life. The show also includes a very cute 3 year-old reciting one of Collins’ poems and a great idea for a dinner party.

Collins did say one thing I took exception to. He said he didn’t think you could teach the rhythm of language or metaphor.

Maybe you can’t teach the rhythm of language in an afternoon or even a semester, but what about over the course of many years? I think I learned about rhythm of language from taking my three kids to early childhood music classes over many, many years. I think I learned about the rhythm of language from reading them picture books and poetry over years and years. I also think I learned and relearn it from walking and feeling the rhythm in my body as I walk.

Metaphor too, I think can be taught. Maybe you can’t teach someone to be a genius, but surely you can help a writer move ahead from where they are. I think the first step is to teach writers to be alert to and reject the cliché. Encourage them to push on and find a new, fresh comparison. I find it helpful to make long lists of possible metaphors. The cliché’s seem to fill the beginning of the list, but then once I’ve gotten them out on paper, other ideas seem to come—brighter, fresher ideas.

Here’s a quick example, using perhaps the most clichéd object around.

Possible metaphors for the moon

A cookie
A cake
A bowl of milk
A cracker
A plate
A face
A bunny
A spoon
A medal
A coin
A balloon
A mirror
A marble
A ball
A baseball
A soccer ball
A saucer
A raindrop
A tear
An eye
A belly button
A button

I don’t think my ideas start to get interesting until pretty far down the list.

Here’s a quick draft, using tear.

Moonfall

The moon
slips down
the cheek
of night
drawing
sorrows
through
the dark.

There’s no time now but I think a second stanza about the sun might work.

 

What do you think? Can we teach the rhythm of language? Can we teach metaphor?

Would you like to give the list strategy a try and report back?

 

For more Poetry Friday, visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem…

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved