Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden

A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one of my favourites. Sitting in a cafe, surrounded by friends  who are quietly writing, I was overcome for a moment.

I miss teaching. Not the grading, not even standing up in front of a rapt class. I miss the learning, the many ways human being teach other what is important. As my former student reminded me just now: we are never alone.

Poetry is such a huge part of my life. Other people go off on riffs about their bikes, or gardens, or their hobbies. I go off on dead poets and metre and metaphor and the neo-sonnet. I just did that at lunch… Sigh… My poor, long-suffering friends.


Because poetry is the heart’s language — that way of laying out the finite griefs that seem forever, the fragile and joys that craze and shatter even as we contemplate them. What I have learned these many years of teaching is that I’m not a particularly amazing teacher; I’m just lucky enough to teach an amazing art: writing. Often poetry.

To teach poetry — to teach writing — is to learn with students this mysterious way of speaking and knowing. It’s to understand how (& why) Auden would say so bluntly: We must love each other or die. 


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