Kip Zegers
Kip Zegers

Reading Whitman
in Manhattan:
Teaching, Poetry and
Hunter College High School


From the Introduction:
When a book is in our hands, it lives or dies. That is the work. We read, we think, we write. We carry the load, we handle it, we sweat. That is the work. We can all do it. This book offers a sense of what work is in a certain time and place. This is a book of essays and poems, poems by a teacher and by his students, it is not a book about how to teach or what is wrong with education. But it raises a challenge. It extends a hand. Look at what these students do. Look at what it means to be among them. Listen to what that asks of us. Look at the city, the place, in which this happens. It is a place not unlike your own.

Kip Zegers


From the Afterword:

In this collection, Kip Zegers has transformed his life as a teacher into compact, finely tuned poems. He has written “a soul of the teacher book,” as Dr. Eileen Coppola, Principal of Hunter College High School, has said. Within it, of course, Zegers has featured the voices of his most creative and talented students so that their language and lyricism may inspire other students to devote their efforts to reading and writing poetry.  The poems may also help readers to sense worlds that they had not previously known.

Razel Solow, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Gifted Studies and Education
Hunter College, CUNY
New York, NY


From the book:

The Arrival

It was waiting to pour on 94th Street and inside
I was sweating from five classes. My words
wrung out of me, I'd tried everything
I`d try again on Monday, but this was better
than loading trucks. It was the same sweat,
but kids lived here and I was being paid to be
the grown up. I sat at my desk, Rm. 318
empty but still crowded, chairs warm,
faces gone to subways and the difficult streets.
I was waiting between is and was, moment and memory,
word and echo, full and finished
for the week. Slowly the pale room fell silent.
Outside the hall was sticky with spilled soda.
Thunder coming and rain streaking the glass behind them
two kids stood at a far window kissing,
stood as on a screened front porch
not looking out, their privacy complete.
School house in the rain,
place of chances, second chances, sweat.


Walt's Last Stand

I walk in with  “A Child Went Forth,”
a poem Whitman made
out of the oldest fear there is.
“I found this,” I said,
“when the world
was nothing and the night
had opened and called my secret name.
You can trust this poem.”
These students consider the possibility.
They are, after all, going forth,
even as they sit in a circle.
A girl, a good kid, says, “You do realize
that while we were home reading this and
writing our own poems we could have been out
living, you know that, right?”
And what of Whitman,
who said he would wait for us,
somewhere, underfoot, in the air?
He became his words
that became pages printed
and reprinted. That they might speak
is what they are, and here
is as far as they can go alone.



Reading Whitman in Manhattan is a 96 page hand-stitched paper book with spine - $16.00

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