Thursday, June 4, 2015
PHOEBE MACADAMS'S LIVELIHOOD
In LIVELIHOOD, Phoebe MacAdams writes poems about her experiences as a teacher, a few about teaching in an elite school with privileged though still humanly portrayed students, but most about subsequently teaching in a huge "inner city" school in Los Angeles.
The poems are variously, and sometimes simultaneously, poignant, humorous, insightful, engaging, original, entertaining, informative, dramatic, narrative, lyrical, enlightening and moving. Each articulates what it's like for a sensitive, intelligent, mature and brilliant woman to face the challenges a teacher faces under trying and sometimes tragic circumstances—and always humbly, honestly and humanly.
Here are just two samples:
four students have been killed:
Steve and Frank shot by random bullets,
Mercy killed by a hit and run driver
and last night, talking to Jeffrey
and his family at back-to-school night,
I heard about his best friend, Mario,
shot last week.
Jeffrey put his head down,
eyelashes filled with tears.
Jeffrey writes poems
about forbidden passion
and fighting fires, which he loves.
Dianna moved out of her house,
away from her alcoholic mother
and abusive father. She is having twins.
Lydia's mom has cancer.
This is a hard season for my students,
who grow anyway.
This is for them.
Nobody could tell me anything
when I was young.
I knew it all and
followed the poets
to Paris, Tunisia, Algeria,
New York, and San Francisco.
I had two children,
a nervous breakdown, a divorce,
but it was okay.
I settled down, wrote poems,
I remarried. We bought a house and
last week I bought a new car.
Now I don't know it all
or even much.
I welcome all advice.
Sometimes I try to advise my students
but now they, too, know it all.