All of Us or None

A German poet for the 29th day of #poetrymonth

All of Us or None by Bertolt Brecht

Slave, who is it that shall free you?
Those in deepest darkness lying.
Comrade, only these can see you
Only they can hear you crying.
Comrade, only slaves can free you.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.
One alone his lot can’t better.
Either gun or fetter.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.

You who hunger, who shall feed you?
If it’s bread you would be carving,
Come to us, we too are starving.
Come to us and let us lead you.
Only hungry men can feed you.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.
One alone his lot can’t better.
Either gun or fetter.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.

Beaten man, who shall avenge you?
You, on whom the blows are falling,
Hear your wounded brothers calling.
Weakness gives us strength to lend you.
Come to us, we shall avenge you.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.
One alone his lot can’t better.
Either gun or fetter.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.

Who, oh wretched one, shall dare it?
He who can no longer bear it.
Counts the blows that arm his spirit.
Taught the time by need and sorrow,
Strikes today and not tomorrow.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.
One alone his lot can’t better.
Either gun or fetter.
Everything or nothing. All of us or none.

For Strength, Survival, Grief and Moving On . . . Day 16 of NPM

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.  Here’s an incredible “Dear World” site with messages and photos of survivors.  It’s just moving to see . . . there are longer messages accompanying the pictures, but the main message is written on the bodies of the survivors.  Might be interesting to share with students and open up a dialogue about strength, survival, grief, and moving on.

boston marathon

And a few poems that might suit those discussions:

Still Start by Kay Ryan

As if engine
parts could be
wrenched out
at random and
the car would
still start and
sound even,
hearts can go
with chambers
broken open.

Source: Poetry (May 2013).


A Nation’s Strength by Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly…
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.


I Have to Tell you by Dorothea Grossman

I have to tell you,
there are times when
the sun strikes me
like a gong,
and I remember everything,
even your ears.

Source: Poetry (March 2010)


We Are Seven  by William Wordsworth
———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?


I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.


She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.


“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.


“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.


“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”


“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”


Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”


“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”


“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.


“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.


“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.


“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.


“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.


“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”


“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”


“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”


Day 13, errrr 15 . . . Thirteen Ways of Looking . . .

For day 15  (it was supposed to be for the 13th day, but that fell on the weekend!) of National Poetry Month, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” seemed (al)most appropriate.

I’ve always loved this poem and the possibility it has with writing workshop/student imitation.  After reading, students could write their own, “Thirteen ways of looking at . . . “.  They could be great for Writer’s Tea!


Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.


*For lesson plans on Wallace Stevens, click here.

This is Just To Say . . . Day 11 of NPM

A little William Carlos . . . sorry, not sorry . . . for your Friday



This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


I love the idea of a poem that we might see on a sticky note (or three) on the refrigerator in our homes. Where else might we find sticky-note messages or apologies throughout our lives?  Might be fun to do a “sticky-note” poem or two with your students as a mini creative writing piece.  This works with Imagist poetry if you’d like to highlight other poets from the Imagist movement. 🙂

Here’s a quick little assignment I did with my students years ago in freshmen English, where they have to write their own “sorry, but not sorry” poem: I’m sorry, but

Here are some additional resources for William Carlos Williams.


Have fun! Happy Friday 🙂


Yeats’s Wandering Song, Day 8 of NPM

For Day 8 of NPM . . . Marcie’s favorite.  If you have any favorite poems you’d like to share, leave the titles in the comments and we’ll feature them this month!


Song of Wandering Aengus


The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.


When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.


Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Source: The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

Here’s some related content from
Some lesson plans on Yeats (and other poems).

Happy Tuesday!

And Still . . . We Rise. Day 7 of NPM

Today, at the start of a new week, post final benchmarks, I wanted to give a shout-out to all of my English-teacher colleagues.  It’s been a rough year, but still, we rise:

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Her YouTube performance of it:


for laughs  . . . the Chumbawamba version of the sentiment

For the Almost-Birthday, Wordsworth. Day 6 of NPM

Tomorrow would have been William Wordsworth’s 244th Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Billy Wordsworth.

early spring

Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played:
Their thoughts I cannot measure,
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


The two writing assignment I think of most for this poem are 1. Students writing their own poems “Lines Written in Early Spring,” and 2. Students lifting the lines “Have I not reason to lament/What man has made of man?” and beginning a poem there.

Some lesson plans and teaching resources for William Wordsworth here.


Saturday Poetry Light, Shel Silverstein on Day 5 of NPM

Whatif by Shel Silverstein
from the book “A Light in the Attic” (1981)

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!


It’s fun and silly, but it could also be entrance into a writer’s notebook entry about the questions we have and/or a model poem.  You could even have each student write a poem and then take a line from each to make a “class poem” that hangs on the wall.

For more of Shel Silverstein’s poems online: click here.

A Work of Artifice and a Poet-Tree, Day 2 of NPM

A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

This would work great with a discussion or unit on metaphor, women’s roles/women’s rights, possibility, obstacles (What keeps people from achieving __?), and even more.  A great little poem!


Here’s an April bulletin board idea to go with today’s poem:

poet tree

This is from a first-grade classroom, but it’s easily upgraded for use in our classrooms.  On the “leaves,” students could write their favorite poem/poet, they could write their favorite line of poetry studied in class, write original poems for the tree, or, as a class, you could keep track of all the poets studied this year!  Lots of possibilities. 🙂



National Poetry Month

Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, I will post a poem-a-day here that you can read, teach, or share with your students.  If you have any nominations for a poem to make it to the blog for National Poetry Month, leave them in the comments below.  Scroll down for a great poetry pairings link as well!

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” from The Apple that Astonished Paris. Copyright � 1988, 1996 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press.

* For more poems by Billy Collins, click here (including podcasts of audio)

* For lesson plans on Billy Collins’s poetry: click here.

* Check out Poetry Pairings from the New York Times Learning Network. The NYT partnered with the Poetry Foundation to pair poems with current event articles in the New York Times.

* Next week, check the course-specific blogs for poetry that can be paired with 4th marking period content!


Happy Poetry Month!