Day 147, Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This morning I worked with the 9th graders on their poems for the upcoming “Poetry Night” readings, and later I did some related dictionary work. The kids are having a hard time speaking their beautiful poems in a beautiful way, and so it was especially interesting to find that the word ‘voice’ derives from the same Indo-European root that gave us the word ‘calliope”, meaning beautiful sound. (Calliope was the Greek muse of epic poetry.) As I thought about it, I was reminded that voices truly do make beautiful sounds. If a deaf person could suddenly hear, surely he or she would be amazed beyond belief at the sounds the human voice makes when it speaks. Even the modest, hesitant voices of my scholars reading their poems would be astonishing. Even the softest words by the quietest people would be breathtaking. I must keep that in mind when I’m teaching. These young voices I hear in my classroom – these ordinary but astounding voices that speak thousands of words to me each day – are a work of wonder. I wonder how often I let their voices sail right past me as if they’re insignificant noises instead of the sounds of hearts and minds speaking. I wonder how often I treat their spoken words as if they’re dust in the passing air instead of gifts of gold. I guess what this tells me is, when I listen to the scholars speaking their poems, I need to focus less on the superficial qualities of their voices and more on the beautiful inner qualities – the soul and spirit behind their sometimes clumsy and uncertain words. Their voices, like all of ours, come from vast and distant spaces, and I should feel privileged to be within hearing distance of them.