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The latest crowd-sourced poem is about hope for the new school year


Back for another edition of MORNING EDITION's poetry segment with our poet in residence, Kwame Alexander. Hey, Kwame.

KWAME ALEXANDER, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel. Like Rumi said, let the beauty we love be what we do. And I love my job.


ALEXANDER: And my job, of course, is to change the world one word at a time.

MARTIN: Yes. So we asked our listeners to help you do that, to help write a poem about a goal they had for this school year. And they responded with some just beautiful words.

ALEXANDER: Indeed, they did. We have students, teachers, parents. They all shared their hopes and goals and promises.

MARTIN: And you did the thing. You took the poems. And like a puzzle maker, you created a community, crowdsourced poem from our listener submissions. And you've brought it this morning. And we're going to read it. Are you ready to do it?

ALEXANDER: I'm ready, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. Here we go. You start.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) This year shall be different. I want to teach my children there is a hopeful future still ahead, and that kids like themselves - dogged and bent and quirky and kind - are going to make it. I want to wipe away their tears, confront all their fears, step into the need, give them voice and choice - seek to employ a house of greater joy, then stop good teachers from leaving because we are scaffolding somebody's a sweeter society.

MARTIN: (Reading) This year, I promise to paper over the stain on the wall, find one more student desk from the hall, replenish the Band-Aid supply by the door, stash spare snacks - peanut free, to be sure. Sort and organize the knowledge of centuries into a learning management system. Grade the papers. Monitor the anxiety. Organize your backpack when papers come unfurled. Sit with you as you rage against the world. Focus on the big questions in a culture of fast answers.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) You see, this year, I've got colleges to tour, teachers to bore, math to do, teachers to woo, essays to write, sources to cite, shoes to tie, important people to look in the eye.

MARTIN: (Reading) Quizzes to complete - try not to make a mistake. Got to learn to drive, learn to slam the brakes. My room is a mess. I have a bed to make.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Daily habit to teach, parents I need to reach. And as soon as I get a minute, I just may ask an author to visit.

MARTIN: (Reading) I've got friends to make, long tests to take, A's to pursue, a new hairdo. Homework to do, so no haiku - sports to play, exams to slay, birthdays to celebrate and debates to moderate. Meals to make. Breaks to take. There are dreams to believe and goals to achieve. And all the while, I need to keep my smile.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) This year, I have to learn from my oversights so life can be full of many delights. I have a great many doors to open. Lessons to plan, make them engaging. Kids to care for, make them feel welcome. Communities to build, make them feel safe. This year, I'll smell the grass and the leaves, breathe the air that blows through the trees, take a step back and realize that I also have myself to please.

MARTIN: (Reading) This year, I'll try to make many quick decisions and try to be hopeful to avoid any mental collision. Reach young children. Be a star. Get down low. See eye to eye. Be in the know. And by and by, turn on the air purifier. Open a window to set free yesterday's air. Make this room be a place where we ignite possibility.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) It's been a week. And I've already labeled all the folders, arranged our chairs in fours, laminated calming posters, hung a hall pass by the door. A neighbor's old armchair, a soft pillow to hug, I put them in the corner next to the donated rug. I finished my compliance training in the nick of time, checked out the pristine wellness room - our new paradigm. I printed out the rosters, found the copy room, sent the boss my syllabus, including links to Zoom. I've got chocolate in my desk and coffee pods on the shelf. This year, we're going to do it. Take care of our mental health.

MARTIN: (Reading) This year shall be different. I will wait in line. Raise my hand. Be respectful. Listen to my teacher. Learn the new curriculum. Welcome my students. I will thrive because...

ALEXANDER: (Reading) Because I want to show them they are worthy, that no skin, muscle, heart, mind or way of loving makes them less worthy - that the world is full of beautiful variety, that the loss of anyone is grievous to all.

MARTIN: (Reading) That listening is a gift to the other, that speaking is an act of courage, that believing is as vital as breath, that discovering is more important than knowing, that loving is more important than being right.

ALEXANDER: (Reading) But if I had to choose just one thing, I think I'd be happy if I could just be with friends and somehow, someway, find myself again.

MARTIN: Oh, I love that. I love that.


MARTIN: That was so...

ALEXANDER: No crying, Rachel.

MARTIN: No crying (laughter).

ALEXANDER: All laughter and love.

MARTIN: We are leaning into the joy of the new school year - so, so good. Thank you so much, Kwame.

ALEXANDER: This is going to be some year. Magical. And that makes me so hopeful, Rachel. Thank you.

MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah. Kwame Alexander, the executive producer of "The Crossover" on Disney+ and the host of "America's Next Great Author." Kwame, thanks, as always.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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