Mark Schorr Reports on a Common Threads Session

This is the second year that Mark Schorr has taught the Common Threads package to Cambridge College students. For Massachusetts Poetry Festival he will emcee the Robert Frost Award program at Howling Wolf Cafe, 4:00 on Saturday, April 21.

Teaching is a process of continuous improvement. Even after a class comes out well, it always suggests how it can go even better. Coming out of the classroom from a Common Threads session last week, I knew that we were able to cover more by combining student introductions with an intro of each poem. This approach also allowed each participant to become more fully responsible for the part of the discussion. A few days later comments from a student who had participated in both sessions confirmed that this year’s approach was better.

My new opening gambit suggested that all students read through the whole packet quickly, choose a poem that each would like to introduce, either as a poem that they liked, disliked, or did not understand. While they were reading through, I gave them a further clue to circle one or two key words as their hook. It was quite satisfying to see that every student was willing to speak for one poem, leaving me with time to apply further clues, especially the set of general questions, which I then explained in detail.

As a result of this direct approach, we covered seven poems in a satisfying amount of detail. We listened to two YouTube videos, the David Ferry and the Sam Cornish, which in both cases helped a lot.

There were no poems that didn’t go well. But David Ferry’s “Out at Lakeville” stood out as a student favorite. One gray haired student came to me after class and said, “We will all be there soon.” “Maybe not as soon as you think, but we will be there,” another said. I was particularly pleased that while one or two spoke of it as a ‘favorite’ at the start, many joined them by the end of the session. I sensed a palpable difference after they heard the YouTube reading. The room settled– despite the unsettling news that the poet was delivering through his poem.