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.