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Finding Your Inner Poet

Authored By: 
Robin Mishell, English teacher

Poetry has been my lifelong friend who always shows up at the right time. My English I and II classes have just begun their Poetry Unit. I look forward to gently nudging the scholars to find the poet inside themselves.

Growing up, poetry came into my life with artists like Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Lowell. When I was earning my undergraduate degree, I studied under Jorie Graham who later won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. I still keep a personal note to me from Jorie as a reminder of how one teacher can introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about words.

In the spirit of Six Degrees of Separation, one of my best friends met Jorie when he was a private student of Tess Gallagher, who was one of Jorie's best friends. Rüdiger has lived his entire life as a poet. He understands and interprets the world through the lens of poetry. His sensitivity has brought him success as a published writer and father of a young daughter with Down Syndrome who is also now a published poet. Like many poets, though, his sensitivity also makes him vulnerable. He feels joy and pain deeply. I hear this in our conversations, and I read this in his poems. Like all poets I have ever met in books or in person, though, Rüdiger does not shy away from expressing the fundamental desires to live, to love, to be true to oneself. Rudiger has graciously agreed to be a Zoom guest speaker from Hawaii at the end of our Poetry Unit.

As a teacher of poetry, I look forward to encouraging my students to be brave with words and with their lives, to dare to be different, to know it is better to strive for more than to never strive at all.


          by Rüdiger Herzing Rückmann

My words move in unexpected directions,

As they translate themselves from German to English and back again.

They take longer to reach their destination as they explore

Hills and valleys, pause to rest before they reappear.

But they know their way home, my words in two languages

That have belonged to my family for generations.

I preserve their history, these gifts that sustain me,

As sacred as breath that I will always keep safe.