Poetry Friday: W.S. Merwin’s “Beginners”

Like many of you, and hundreds of thousands of educators around the country, I’ve been busy preparing for the start of school next week. The buzz of anticipation at meeting new students, sharing new books, and embarking on our learning journey never fades. Unfortunately, there are always aspects of our teaching lives that we have no control over and don’t always agree with. What we can control, though, is our response to the situation.

I’ve always admired people who remain calm in every situation because I occasionally go to DEFCON 1 in an instant. I know this is not always appropriate or even warranted. It’s usually also never helpful. This is something I’m working on. I will carry the last line of this poem by the very wise and wonderful W.S. Merwin into the new year to help me.

by W.S. Merwin

As though it had always been forbidden to remember
each of us grew up
knowing nothing about the beginning

but in time there came from that forgetting
names representing a truth of their own
and we went on repeating them
until they too began not to be remembered
they became part of the forgetting
later came stories like the days themselves
there seemed to be no end to them
and we told what we could remember of them

Read the rest of the poem here.

Wishing you all a great year!

Please be sure to visit my wise and wonderful friend, Margaret Simon at Reflection on the Teche, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

12 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: W.S. Merwin’s “Beginners”

  1. “The day we wake to is our own.” I love that and will add it to my “let it be” mantra for this school year beginning. Everything is better once the kids come. Then I can actually focus on the most important thing.

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  2. Perfect words for a new season, and any season. Deep breaths, my friend – anyone who crosses your path this year will be richer for it! (Like Margaret, I love that line, ” the day we wake to is our own.”) Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Stepping in to know what our goals are and then discovering that we can ‘own it’ is wise indeed, Catherine. Best wishes for a fabulous year each and every day!

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  4. Catherine,
    Each new day, a gift. I had not read this poem and read it 3 times. The last time aloud and reverently. There will be more readings. When I am feeling down, I think of my colleague, JoAnn, a wonderful teacher who died too young from breast cancer in 1986. I tell myself, she would not complain, would love to have this day no matter. It also reminds me of a song I first heard eons ago in college, by Ian and Sylvia…..”today is the first day of the rest of my life, I wake as a child to watch the world (or day) begin” and that, too, has stayed. One beautiful gift of the school year is the hope engendered by the new beginning. This line and your thoughts about choosing wisely how we want to live our days will stay with me. Each new day is a chance to choose. To decide how we want to live. I am sure all your calm and beautiful moments live on in the memories of those you teach and those you hold close.

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  5. Beautiful poem by W.S. Merwin, and that last line so strong and full of empowerment. Thanks for sharing it with us Catherine, and all the best for the coming new school year!

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  6. You? DEFCON 1? I can’t imagine it!! But I share the frustration with “beginners.” It comes with the territory of having taught longer than some of (increasingly more of) my colleagues have been alive. Keep Calm and Teach On! (And frame that last line…to remember of colleagues and students alike!)

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  7. Endings and beginnings have been on my mind lately. I feel as you do sometimes. I think it’s natural, and it does serve a purpose. It helps us maintain perspective and to always seek the truth. Thank you for sharing with us.

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