Thank you, Miss Ross

I am known to cut the silence in a room by reciting a poem. I can recite so many poems by heart, and I love to recite them!

This past week, Jeff and I had traveled to the Carrizo Plain to witness the grand Super Bloom of the wildflowers this spring. In my last blog post, I wrote about the Super Bloom. So many times during the days we traveled, the whole poem, “Afternoon on a Hill,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, came into my mind, “whole,” I like to say. I recited the poem to Jeff and our friends as we drove among the hills, all wearing wildflowers in vivid colors.

Thank you, Miss Ross – my English teacher for grades 7, 8, and 9 at Peckham Junior High School in Milwaukee. Every week, the assignment was given to memorize a poem. One of us was called without warning to recite the poem to the class on Friday. In my memory, I see myself standing before the class, saying out loud a poem I had memorized in my small bedroom of our upper flat on the North Side of Milwaukee. As shy as I was, I was never too nervous to stand in front of a group, to speak. I’m surprised, as I remember so many times I was called to do so.

We studied the writers, too, and each one of us put together books with the words to poems copied, and pictures which we’d cut out of magazines to go with the poems. I carefully pasted photos from Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls to go with the poems I’d memorized.

Later, after I’d left Junior High and moved on to high school, I memorized another poem, longer this time: “The Night Before Christmas.” Every December, I try to find an audience to let me recite the poem. Some things in my life I don’t remember anymore, but the poems I committed to memory still live inside of me. I like that. And I’m grateful, always, to Miss Ross, in her navy blue polka dotted dress, black shoes and carefully set hair, who gave me the gift of these poems.

Thank you, Miss Ross!

Superbloom, Carrizo Plain, 4/11/2023, photo by Mary Elyn Bahlert

3 thoughts on “Thank you, Miss Ross”

  1. In fourth grade I had a teacher that made us memorize any poem we wanted to and recite it in front of the class. I pulled a book of poems from my dad’shelf and discovered Edgar Allen Poe. For that class I only learned The Raven, but only first three verses, I was only nine after all! Then, in eighth grade an English teacher made us memorize something like 200 lines of poetry and recite it to her individually at her desk while the other kids worked on diagraming sentences or whatever else we were doing the day you were called on. I learned the whole poem that time, and also something from Emily Dickenson, Vachel Lindsay, and Robert Frost (again all pulled from my dad’s bookshelf). My fellow classmates hated these assignments, but I loved them! I am so grateful to these teachers for introducing me to poetry. Thank you Mr. Yamasaki and Mrs. Green. And thank you Dad for the great wealth of material I had to chose from.

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