Friday, March 22, 2019

Nothing Gold -- After Robert Frost




Nothing Gold
after Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold
or, in the case of that bush
with its six inches of new growth,
red.

Or, in the case of that forsythia
on the south-facing side of the house,
an unbelievable shade of bright
yellow.

Or, in the case of those new shoots
knifing up from exposed iris bulbs,
a simultaneously fragile but violent
green.

All these early hues
in leaf, in flower
hard to hold as the earth moves
along its path
hour by hour
by day by day
by season by season,

not so much subsiding
as being subsumed
in the golden Eden
of Life.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019


The first draft of this poem happened in one of our five-minute quick-writes in writing workshop this week. Another reminder that these small rituals are powerful not just for our student writers, but for our own writing lives.

I have a love-hate relationship with Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost. I landed in the honors program at the University of Denver based on good grades in a sub-standard rural high school. I was over my head in so many ways. There was so much I didn't even know I didn't know. A professor attempted to teach me how to craft a critical essay by humiliating me -- by showing me the work of a classmate who was already clearly on the path to his fame as a writer. Then he asked me if this poem by Robert Frost was hopeful or hopeless. My humiliation had turned to stubborn anger, and I argued that the poem was hopeful. And then I figured out on my own how to be the kind of writer I wanted to be.

It was that experience more than any other that taught me how to teach the writer, not the writing. Every writer can move to the next level, but you can only begin from where they are the moment they show you their own work.


Rebecca has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Sloth Reads, and how perfect is that? Tomorrow is National Goof Off Day, when our spring break begins!



14 comments:

  1. Teach the writer, not the writing... I LOVE THAT. I appreciate you sharing about your college experience... so glad you knifed your way up, just like those bulbs in your poem. xo

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  2. Lovely poem, and thanks for sharing about your college experience. Wise words about teaching the writer, not the writing!!

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  3. really lovely poem - thanks

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  4. Thank you for sharing your poem. And I hope you're able to find some time to goof off during spring break!

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  5. Love this line from your post: "And then I figured out on my own how to be the kind of writer I wanted to be." And then you've taken what you've learned to "teach the writer, not the writing." So much to learn in those six words.

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  6. We each have our own past that informs the way we want to teach. Your story is transforming. I wish you could show your post to that professor (probably long gone). The poem is one I've used as a mentor with students, finding their own gold. Wish I could show them yours, Mary Lee!

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  7. Your poem is gorgeous, Mary Lee. It reminds me of Red Sings From the Treetops. I especially love these lines:
    not so much subsiding
    as being subsumed
    in the golden Eden
    of Life.
    I'm so glad you "figured out on my own how to be the kind of writer I wanted to be." You are an inspiration to me in so many ways! Enjoy your break!

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  8. Your poem....so worthy of Frost. I remember that feeling of understanding that I didn't know what I didn't know in college. And, I was such a proud person. It was very hard for me to learn humility...to learn to listen and question. The writer in me needed teaching. I'm so fortunate that good people, good mentors and literature have helped guide. The words of your poem just shine. Subsumed....such a strong and perfect word for your description. Sigh. This is a poem I wish I had written. Well done.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this poem Thank you for not letting your terrible professor discourage you in your writing journey, and thank you for being a much better teacher than your professor ever was.

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  10. I love your poem and the backstory. I'll always love the Robert Frost version, but I so appreciate the way yours looks at the way things actually are in your own yard. And your teaching point is well taken. The kind of writer you figured out how to be is a wonderful kind of writer!

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  11. Wow. Goes to show some of the hardest earned lessons are ones we teach ourselves, when we've been in challenging situations. "Teach the writer, not the writing" is something I'm going to carry with me and pass on, Mary Lee. Thank you for that.

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  12. I love this. I always find myself both loving and wanting to challenge the Frost poem, and you've really done it!

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  13. I love your "golden Eden of Life" poem Mary Lee–all the emerging plants that you've captured as they make their way through the still very cold but thawing earth, thanks! Looks like little crowns popping up out of the ground…

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  14. I love your poem after Nothing Gold can Stay (which I also like). I love your descriptions of all the colors of early spring and how closely you've observed what's around you. And I'm glad you didn't listen to that goofy teacher! "Teach the writer, not the writing" I'll take that with me, too.

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