Of so many things.
A litany of images cascades from Central Michigan University professor and poet, Robert Fanning, in his mesmerizing poem, What is Written on the Leaves.
In the world of algorithms and big data, in which we are reduced to nothing more than our assemblages of profiles, browsing history, and followers, we are reminded once again of the very difficult task of being human. Poetry does this for us. And nothing humanizes us more richly than luminous poetry.
The poem, taken from his most recent collection of poems, Our Sudden Museum, published by Ireland’s Salmon Press (salmonpoetry.com), could be the voice of our wiser self, putting us on notice, that of all our accumulated sufferings and possessions, we are to “let go.”
Is it a command, a suggestion, or something else-maybe a refrain from the deepest blues song, that we are to lay down our weariness, our baggage, we are to “let go.”
But, what would we be without it?
Any reader who is looking for solace and inspiration today, should definitely check out Robert Fanning’s work.
I do believe teachers of creative writing and English teachers would find much to appreciate in this poem. Experience for yourself but I believe Robert Fanning’s accessible poem, What is Written on the Leaves, rich in imagery, rhythm and repetition would be suitable for older students.
An interesting thematic lesson might be to read Robert Fanning’s poem after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. How do these two works complement each other?
Please check out Robert Fanning’s website and his reading of What is Written on the Leaves on Soundcloud.
Additionally, parents will find his poem, Watching My Daughter Through the One Way Mirror of a Preschool Observation Room especially poignant.
Questions for Discussion
- What is your first reaction to his poem, What is Written on the Leaves?
- What images connect with you?
- What are 3 poetic devices that Robert Fanning uses in the poem?
- How does the use of repetition of the phrase “let go” add to the poem’s meaning?
- Who is the speaker in the poem?
- Why is it essential to hear poetry spoken aloud, or to speak it aloud ourselves?
- What does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”