Poetry Friday: What the Heart Cannot Forget


My head is still full of wisdom and inspiration from NCTE, but thoughts of Christmas are starting to push them away. As I pondered what to share today, my mind kept returning to my family’s Christmas traditions. My search for a poem that matched my thinking led me to this lovely work by Joyce Sutphen, Minnesota’s Poet Laureate.

 What the Heart Cannot Forget

by Joyce Sutphen

Everything remembers something. The rock, its firey bed,

cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub

of watery fingers along its edge.

The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,

remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,

gathering itself together for the fall.

The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under

its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down

the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Wildlifeppl at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons
Wildlifeppl at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Once I found “What the Heart Cannot Forget” I copied it into my notebook. I suddenly realized I was doing exactly what Linda Rief described during her session with Georgia Heard and Tom Romano at NCTE. Taking Georgia’s “heart maps” a step further, Linda has her students create “heart books.” These books are collections of poems that reflect a topic on their heart maps. (Vicki Vinton describes Linda’s process beautifully at her blog, To Make a Prairie. Linda Baie also wrote about using heart maps with her students at Teacher Dance.)

Maureen Barbieri introduced Linda as a teacher who “encourages her students to share their voices so readers will see the world in new ways.” Joyce Sutphen’s words made me see the world in a new way. More importantly, they spoke to my heart.

Please visit Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: What the Heart Cannot Forget

  1. I’ve only read a few of Sutphen’s poems, but they’ve all been stunners. Love her work. The description of clouds in this poem is absolutely wonderful.


  2. A brilliant and moving poem, matched with an adorable photo. Thanks for sharing this one today! What is it about this time of year that brings on the longing for time to reflect when the schedule is saying, “Rush! Hurry! Time is running out!”?


  3. Gorgeous poem and I love the idea of heart books too. Without realizing at the time, that’s what I asked my daughter to give me for Christmas. A handmade book of poems, whether her own or written by others, that she selects because they mean something to her.


  4. Thank you for the poem,the heart map and ALL the other resources you’ve referenced. What a delightful education. Thank you. thank you, thank you. You have given me a beautiful present.


  5. You thought you were done thinking about NCTE, and then there it was again! I saved this poem in my electronic poetry file, but I’m thinking I need to write it in my notebook with my very own handwriting — slow down and savor each word as I write, just like Linda Rief had her students do! (I LOVED that session. Probably the best of the entire conference for me…)


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