I keep trying to write about my impending book publication, about the process of writing, about poetry. But all I can think about are the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I spent twelve years in a high school classroom – one as a full-time substitute teacher, eleven as an English teacher.
I’ve taught every kind of student: eager, disinterested, poor, rich, parents overly involved, parents totally absent, some good at school, others disheartened by it. I’ve taught students as articulate as those who are speaking out now about gun reform. I’ve taught students who I know were capable of killing seventeen of their peers.
Every time I sit down to write about writing, I come up dry, because it doesn’t seem important in the face of dead children. Then I remember Alex Schachter reading his son Max’s poem. A poem that Max wrote two weeks before he was gunned down in his high school. I think of how people turn to poetry in times of love, in times of sorrow. I know that many of my students, high school, undergraduate, and graduate make sense of their world through words. And I remember how people passed around Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones” after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. How that poem helped people move forward.
And yet another shooting. And yet, even with the brilliance of the young people who are mobilizing and asking good questions and speaking up for their murdered peers and teachers… it feels a little hopeless. Still, this place is beautiful, right? How can we move forward and create more peace, more love, more listening, more hope?