Re-entry! |  View in browser

Teaching Colleagues,  

We’ve been thinking about y’all for the last few weeks, and waiting to write until we’re pretty sure that you’ve all made re-entry. You’re in class! It’s glorious! It’s daunting! It’s “Why don’t they...? “ and “Why do we...?” And “How will I ever...?”

Of course: you—in a school, in the first phases of a new year--are smack in the midst of a universe of promise. Surrounded by it on all sides. And full of promise yourownself! Such a responsibility, such an honor...and such an unbelievably wild, wild ride.

In the lives of your students, there is else no one like you. No one else exactly like you who will show them their own promise, and the promise the world holds for them, or should hold for them. And how the big questions that Hamlet or Fences or Jhumpa Lahiri or Terrance Hayes ask can be guideposts to uncovering and owning all of that promise.

We’ll write more soon about what we’re up to, what we have for you in 2018-2019. For now, though, a favorite poem. You may already know that the Folger is smack in the middle of DC—one block from the U.S. Capitol (and Congress) and across the street from the Supreme Court. Enough said about that.

We are also just around the corner from the growing-up home of Elizabeth Alexander—the celebrated poet, memoirist, and now the new President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Elizabeth Alexander is also a teacher. Here is her poem, for you:


Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry

is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said

“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I’”),
digging in the clam flats

for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

--Elizabeth Alexander, 2005 

With love,


Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D.

Director of Education 
Folger Shakespeare Library 
201 East Capitol Street, SE 
Washington, DC 20003