Poetry Friday: #MarvelousMaryLee

I don’t remember exactly when I first found A Year of Reading, the blog where Mary Lee and Franki Sibberson have been writing about reading, poetry, and literacy for 15 years. It was one of the first blogs I started reading regularly in those early years. Mary Lee’s passion for teaching, her talent as a poet, and her all-around amazingness have inspired me ever since. Her generous invitations to have others join in during her annual April Poetry Projects were the nudge I needed to begin writing my own poetry. Her kind and encouraging words kept me going. How lucky are children who have had the privilege of spending a year in her classroom? How lucky are we that we can help celebrate Mary Lee’s retirement? Congratulations, Mary Lee, and thank you for everything! Like everyone gathered here today, I can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you!


Your gift of observation is polished
to a high sheen;
nothing escapes your notice. 

After thirty-seven years,
you’ve scrutinized
and studied
almost one thousand students.

You invited their light
every wavelength–
into the cauldron of your mind,
where an alchemy of attention
and imagination helped you
find the essence of them.

For your students, 
thanks to you,
everything comes next.

For you, always open to surprises,
everything comes next.

(Italicized lines borrowed from Mary Lee’s “Words from the Poet” in Poems Are Teachers. “Everything comes next” is borrowed from the title of Naomi Shihab Nye’s latest collection of poems.)

Draft © 2021 by Catherine Flynn

Please visit the hostess of this online extravaganza, Christie Wyman, at Wondering and Wandering for more #PoemsforMaryLee! Be sure to wish Christie happy birthday while you’re there!

16 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: #MarvelousMaryLee

  1. I love the line “everything comes next.” And for Mary Lee, “nothing escapes your notice.” I forgot to mention her April projects that have nurtured me, too. So many things about Mary Lee. I’m enjoying her retirement party!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful afterimage poem of some of Mary Lee’s and Nye’s words. Your poem celebrates her scrutiny and study of those almost 1000 students and leaves us thinking of them and all the memories they surely have. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, Catherine, yes. You have nailed exactly who she is and who I have known her to be through this blogosphere world. I am lucky to have been with her at several conventions over the years. Once in Las Vegas for NCTE and we went to a Beatleslove show together and one time we shared lunch on the patio in San Antonio. Those moments when you find yourself with a generous and wonderful person you barely know, but do know the essence of through her words and work and caring. And her students and colleagues to see her continue to grow and inspire. It is a wonderful thing to honor a teacher and especially one like Mary Lee. I wish her the best of everything in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Everything comes next” are the perfect words to encapsulate change – that blend of ending and beginning. This is a lovely tribute to Mary Lee. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine, I love this poem! And, the inclusion of “everything comes next” is genius. Yes, this the essence of Mary Lee…nurturing the essence of others. Well done. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “and imagination helped you
    find the essence of them.”
    This is what teachers do. Catherine, you found a lovely way to explain what Mary Lee has brought to her elementary students.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so true. So Mary Lee. She is a light-alchemist of the highest order! And yes, everything comes next. Beautiful and inspiring, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your poem, Catherine. Favorite lines:
    “You invited their light—
    every wavelength–
    into the cauldron of your mind,”
    Such beautiful words for any teacher, especially one like Mary Lee.

    Liked by 1 person

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