Teacher-Scholar: The Journal of the State Comprehensive University


When I taught high school English in California another lifetime ago, I began the new year with my juniors in American Literature by having them read and discuss Czeslaw Milosz’s poem “Gift”: A day so happy. Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden. Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers. There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess. I knew no one worth my envying him. Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot. To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me. In my body I felt no pain. When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails. After our discussion, I would ask students to create their own model poems, using Milosz’s first line exactly, but then crafting a series of simple declarative observations about fond memories from their summer vacations just ended. This simple activity eased students into another nine months of school, and the study of literature specifically, by allowing them to reflect upon, bring into the classroom, and share with others those moments that mattered to them from their summertime, non-academic lives. Students would share their poems with excitement. Everyone had something to write about, and now everyone was amazed to learn (my subversive pedagogical plan) that they could actually write poetry—on the first day of class!