Writing Workshop: A Woodworking Poem

At the request of a few friends, I am posting a poem I wrote a few years ago.  It brings together two important parts of my life–woodworking and teaching–that are eerily similar at times.

Writing Workshop

For my students


“I’ve never been good at English,” he says as we look over his

Essay, and he is right, the paragraphs

Run out, the word choice rough, the syntax warped, and each idea is

Misshapen, bent. (I bet he’s good at math.)

“Let’s start with content,” I begin, and ask him just precisely what

He means. “Now write it down.” He hesitates

Before he scribes his line, but he does. “Good,” I say, “and now you cut

Out everything that does not quite relate

To that.” He’s just beginning to see why his content is so slim,

But see he does, though not that I shape him.


A subtle, almost silent work, the shaping of all these shapers.

They think that they are learning just to write,

But they too are written, by parents, entertainers, all makers,

And all add pieces, some solid, some light,

Most brittle and unnecessary, so that when they reach this class

My work begins, as restoration must,

With tearing out the ill advice, the wrongheaded notions their last

Teachers put in, then sweeping up the dust,

And putting up the frame: the word, the sentence, paragraph, thesis—

The lumber, joints, sometimes the carcase, plans,

All elements of essays, but of human minds also pieces.

We teachers always hope that each young man

And woman that we teach will gain some skill, of course, get better at

Our craft, but further, that the craft will rouse

Some latent, deep-grained beauty of a soul finding order so that

Each will become a piece of some great house.

– 2007

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1 Response to Writing Workshop: A Woodworking Poem

  1. Pingback: Writing Workshop: A Woodworking Poem | The Literary Workshop Blog | My Blog

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