Poetry / The English Teacher


Confession: I love literature anthologies.

Confession. I despise textbooks.

HUGE differences between the two, really. Anthologies, collected and shared (with comments, of course) by scholars. Textbooks, complete with ‘lessons’ aligned with STANDARDS (could that please be a four-letter word already?!) and published by corporations.

I rest my case.

Secret confessions in a blog. O, Irony…

I have another secret: Delicious poetry collects itself in anthologies.

Over the teaching years, I gained a bit of skill at reading the secret thoughts my students hadn’t yet learned to mask. I often noted the following question etched on their faces, though they dared not speak it aloud:  ‘Doesn’t she know that ‘delicious’ describes the sensory delights of taste and smell?’ And I would answer, though they’d never spoken a word:  ‘Words — the good ones, mind you —  taste good. Delicious, really. They roll off the tongue, dribble down the chin, linger with a sweet aftertaste, fill us up.’ 

So, always hungering after another good word, I leaf through the textbooks, the anthologies, the collected volumes lining the bookshelves of my classroom and my rooms at home. And there, a few years back, I met Denise Levertov. Pretty sure thanks is due to an anthology; though it may have been a textbook. (I highly doubt it.) Of course, by ‘met’ I mean ‘discovered her poetry.’

Her body of work is wide and deep, and I’ve only skimmed the smallest surface of her offerings. But what I’ve tasted? You guessed it: delicious. I have to laugh, because I didn’t know until just yesterday that one of her collections bears the title O Taste and SeeIn it, I found this:


The Secret

Two girls discover

the secret of life

in a sudden line of



I who don’t know the

secret wrote

the line. They

told me


(through a third person)

they had found it

but not what it was

not even


what line it was. No doubt

by now, more than a week

later, they have forgotten

the secret,


the line, the name of

the poem. I love them

for finding what

I can’t find,


and for loving me

for the line I wrote,

and for forgetting it

so that


a thousand times, till death

finds them, they may

discover it again, in other



in other

happenings. And for

wanting to know it,



assuming there is

such a secret, yes,

for that

most of all.



Confession: I can’t keep a secret. And the word is out. Poetry is delicious. Taste, and see.


2 thoughts on “Secrets

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