Poetry Friday: “How to walk around the block” by Michael Salinger

When school closed in March, there were no answers to a million questions. We had no idea how long school would be closed. No idea if distance learning was possible. And if it was, who knew what it would look like. There was one thing I did know: I needed my most trusted books and resources with me at home. One of the first books I put pulled off my shelf was Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genresby Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. I know most people in the Poetry Friday community are familiar with this book (and many have their own poems published in its pages), but if you don’t know this book, do yourself a favor and order it today.

Just as I suspected, I have turned to Amy’s gentle wisdom about writing many times over the past ten weeks. Recently, as the weather has turned from a cold, dreary spring into glorious summer-like days, cabin fever has started to set in. I could sense a restlessness in my students (and in myself, for that matter). They needed an adventure.

Amy’s book is full of poems to inspire and strengthen student writing. In it, I found the perfect poem to launch my would-be travelers on an exploration of their neighborhood in Michael Salinger‘s poem, “How to walk around the block.” Michael’s poem invites readers to see their neighborhood, and themselves, with fresh eyes. My student’s couldn’t wait to go for a walk around their block to find what awaited them out there.

“How to walk around the block”
by Michael Salinger

Wear shoes.
If they have laces, make sure they are tied.
Pick a direction and go.
Double foot hop
over sidewalk cracks,
then stop and pick up a rock.
No snooping in your neighbor’s mailbox
(You’ll get in trouble if you get caught.)
Woof bark woof bark woof bark woof;
ask before you pet that dog.
That stick could use a new location.
where you started is your destination.
‘Cause ’round the block
is a circle
(even if it’s really a square).
Arriving back at your front door,
you’ll be a different person
when you get home.

© 2018, shared with permission of the author

Many of you have also been writing #PoemsofPresence this month. Using Michael’s poem to encourage my students to find their own #PoemsofPresence fills me with hope as we head into a summer filled with unknowns. I hope we all can see the coming months as a time of discovery. Discoveries about our block, our neighbors, and most importantly, ourselves.

Thank you to Michael Salinger for allowing me to share his poem, and thank you to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for her wonderful book. Please be sure to visit Mary Lee Hahn at A Reading Year for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

One of my recent discoveries on my block.
a hawk feather on the path
reminds me
I’m not the only one
who calls this place home.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “How to walk around the block” by Michael Salinger

  1. A delightful poem, Catherine. Fresh eyes….to observe and really see. That’s what I take away from this poem. It’s a great mentor text too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is the perfect poem to share with your students, Catherine! I’ve been enjoying reading about your walking discoveries in your #poemsofpresence. The one you shared here today is especially rich. You often capture such depth of meaning in a few well-chosen words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was glad when our school year ended BEFORE the lovely weather arrived. Like you, Amy’s book was one I grabbed in that “what will I need” time. I’ll keep this poem/exercise in mind for the possible eventuality of more online teaching and learners in need of (safe, manageable) adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed Salinger’s poem, and how it’s addressed to a child. And what an amazing treasure you found on your block and your verse states in a lovely way what that feather means.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tt is a special poem, like Amy’s book, full of inspiration! I am working with the granddaughters in June to do some specific research and activities, think this might be just right for both. Thanks much, Catherine!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a fun poem to use for a mentor text. I love Amy’s book, too! We have taken many walks during this time, and yesterday we had a pair of ducks waddling by! That could make a fun poem.

    I love your connection with hawk and home! We do share with many, don’t we?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing Michael Salinger’s wonderful poem, Catherine! I’ve loved reading poems, like this one, that were written before the pandemic and yet speak to these troubled times so well. Your hawk feather poem is one of several of yours I’ve enjoyed this month. I’m not sure if it’s been a purposeful choice or an oversight not to share any on the padlet, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, there’s still time if you’d like to add one or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your gentle reminders. Because of online teaching, I’ve been trying to limit my screen time. I added two of my favorites today. I will miss the daily (or in my case, occasional posts), but isn’t every poem really a poem of presence?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s