Cover image for Teaching with fire : poetry that sustains the courage to teach
Teaching with fire : poetry that sustains the courage to teach
Intrator, Sam M.
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 225 pages ; 19 cm
Hearing the call -- Cherishing the work -- On the edge -- Holding on -- In the moment -- Making contact -- The fire of teaching -- Daring to lead.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN6101 .T36 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Reclaim Your Fire

" Teaching with Fire is a glorious collection of the poetry that has restored the faith of teachers in the highest, most transcendent values of their work with children....Those who want us to believe that teaching is a technocratic and robotic skill devoid of art or joy or beauty need to read this powerful collection. So, for that matter, do we all."
?Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace and Savage Inequalities

"When reasoned argument fails, poetry helps us make sense of life. A few well-chosen images, the spinning together of words creates a way of seeing where we came from and lights up possibilities for where we might be going....Dip in, read, and ponder; share with others. It's inspiration in the very best sense."
?Deborah Meier, co-principal of The Mission Hill School, Boston and founder of a network of schools in East Harlem, New York

"In the Confucian tradition it is said that the mark of a golden era is that children are the most important members of the society and teaching is the most revered profession. Our jour ney to that ideal may be a long one, but it is books like this that will sustain us - for who are we all at our best save teachers, and who matters more to us than the children?"
?Peter M. Senge, founding chair, SoL (Society for Organizational Learning) and author of The Fifth Discipline

Those of us who care about the young and their education must find ways to remember what teaching and learning are really about. We must find ways to keep our hearts alive as we serve our students. Poetry has the power to keep us vital and focused on what really matters in life and in schooling. Teaching with Fire is a wonderful collection of eighty-eight poems from such well-loved poets as Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, and Pablo Neruda. Each of these evocative poems is accompanied by a brief story from a teacher explaining the significance of the poem in his or her life's work. This beautiful book also includes an essay that describes how poetry can be used to grow both personally and professionally.

Teaching With Fire was written in partnership with the Center for Teacher Formation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Royalties from this book will be used to fund scholarship opportunities for teachers to grow and learn.

Author Notes


Sam M. Intrator is assistant professor of education and child study at Smith College. He is a former high school teacher and administrator and the son of two public school teachers. He is the editor of Stories of the Courage to Teach and author of Tuned In and Fired Up: How Teaching Can Inspire Real Learning in the Classroom .

Megan Scribner is a freelance writer, editor, and program evaluator who has conducted research on what sustains and empowers the lives of teachers. She is the mother of two children and PTA president of their elementary school in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Intrator (education & child study, Smith) and Scribner, an editor and program evaluator, have organized this book simply but powerfully to capture the relationship between educators and the poems that have become their inspiration. Text on the left-hand side of a spread explains where and why an educator teaches, while the facing page offers a poem that has sustained him or her through long droughts in the classroom. The diversity of poems is impressive; the poets represented in this book range from British, white, classic, and dead to recent award winners from all over the globe. The educators also come from diverse backgrounds, and they have multifarious reasons for choosing their profession. Although many traditional teachers from public school settings are represented, the educators also come from parochial schools, urban charter schools, Teach for America, and colleges and include artists in residence, principals, and curriculum directors. It is the pluralistic, inclusive approach this book takes that makes it such a worthy read. Highly recommended for all school and college libraries.-Maria Kochis, California State Univ., Sacramento, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Sam M. Intrator and Megan ScribnerParker J. Palmer and Tom Vander ArkSam M. Intrator
Gratitudesp. xi
A Note to Our Readersp. xiii
Introductionp. xvii
Hearing the Callp. 1
Bob O'Meally's "Make Music with Your Life"p. 2
Marge Piercy's "To be of use"p. 4
Pablo Neruda's "The Poet's Obligation"p. 6
Gabriele D'Annunzio's "I pastori"p. 8
Emily Dickinson's "The Chariot"p. 10
Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar"p. 12
William Stafford's "The Way It Is"p. 14
Walt Whitman's Preface to "Leaves of Grass" [Excerpt]p. 16
Langston Hughes's "Dream Deferred"p. 18
Marian Wright Edelman's "I Care and I'm Willing to Serve"p. 20
Cherishing the Workp. 23
Billy Collins's "First Reader"p. 24
Gary Snyder's "Axe Handles"p. 26
David Whyte's "Working Together"p. 28
Marcie Hans's "Fueled"p. 30
William Carlos William's "The Red Wheelbarrow"p. 32
George Venn's "Poem Against the First Grade"p. 34
Jeff Moss's "On the Other Side of the Door"p. 36
Lydia Cortes's "I Remember"p. 38
Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay"p. 40
Gary Blankenburg's "The Mouse"p. 42
Lewis Buzbee's "Sunday, Tarzan in His Hammock"p. 44
On the Edgep. 47
John Milton's "Paradise Lost, Book VIII"p. 48
Stephen Sondheim's "Children Will Listen"p. 50
Al Zolynas's "Love in the Classroom"p. 52
Billy Collins's "On Turning Ten"p. 54
Li-Young Lee's "The Gift"p. 56
Mary Oliver's "The Journey"p. 58
Yehuda Amichai's "God Has Pity on Kindergarten Children"p. 60
Jellaludin Rumi's "The Lame Goat"p. 62
Linda McCarriston's "Hotel Nights with My Mother"p. 64
Lucile Burt's "Melissa Quits School"p. 66
Holding Onp. 69
Denise Levertov's "Witness"p. 70
Octavio Paz's "After"p. 72
Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese"p. 74
William Butler Yeats's "Everything That Man Esteems"p. 76
May Sarton's "Now I Become Myself"p. 78
Annie Dillard's "Teaching a Stone to Talk" [Excerpt]p. 80
David Whyte's "Sweet Darkness"p. 82
Rubin Alves's "Tomorrow's Child"p. 84
Donald Hall's "Names of Horses"p. 86
Judy Brown's "Fire"p. 88
Margaret Walker's "For My People"p. 90
In the Momentp. 93
Elizabeth Carlson's "Imperfection"p. 94
David Wagoner's "Lost"p. 96
Wendell Berry's "A Purification"p. 98
Marge Piercy's "The seven of pentacles"p. 100
Pablo Neruda's "Keeping Quiet"p. 102
Gary Snyder's "What Have I Learned"p. 104
Wislawa Szymborska's "There But for the Grace"p. 106
Derek Walcott's "Love After Love"p. 108
William Stafford's "You Reading This, Be Ready"p. 110
Edgar A. Guest's "Don't Quit"p. 112
Making Contactp. 115
Charles Olson's "These Days"p. 116
Donna Kate Rushin's "The Bridge Poem"p. 118
Seamus Heaney's "The Cure at Troy" [Excerpt]p. 120
Virginia Satir's "Making Contact"p. 122
John Moffitt's "To Look at Any Thing"p. 124
Jellaludin Rumi's "Two Kinds of Intelligence"p. 126
Adrienne Rich's "Dialogue"p. 128
Galway Kinnell's "Saint Francis and the Sow"p. 130
Maxine Kumin's "Junior Life Saving"p. 132
Gary Soto's "Saturday at the Canal"p. 134
Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck"p. 136
The Fire of Teachingp. 139
Wislawa Szymborska's "A Contribution to Satistics"p. 140
E.E. Cummings's "You Shall Above All Things"p. 142
Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day"p. 144
Ranier Maria Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo"p. 146
Robert Graves's "Warning to Children"p. 148
Wallace Stevens's "The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain"p. 150
Langston Hughes's "My People"p. 152
@nikki giovanni's "the drum"p. 154
@nila northSun's "moving camp too far"p. 156
Czeslaw Milosz's "Gift"p. 158
T. S. Eliot's "East Coker"p. 160
Naomi Shihab Nye's "Shoulders"p. 162
Bettye T. Spinner's "Harvest Home"p. 164
Daring to Leadp. 167
Rabindranath Tagore's "Where the Mind Is Without Fear"p. 168
Barbara Kingsolver's "Beating Time"p. 170
Thomas Jefferson's "Passage from a Letter to William Charles Jarvis"p. 172
Robert Herrick's "Delight in Disorder"p. 174
Rainer Maria Rilke's "I Believe in All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken"p. 176
Langston Hughes's "Mother to Son"p. 178
@nikki giovanni's "ego-tripping"p. 180
Anne Sexton's "Courage"p. 182
William Stafford's "Silver Star"p. 184
Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" [Excerpt]p. 186
Vaclav Havel's "It Is I Who Must Begin"p. 188
Marge Piercy's "The low road"p. 190
Tending the Fire: The Utility of Poetry in a Teacher's Lifep. 193
About the Courage to Teach Programp. 213
The Contributorsp. 215
The Editorsp. 225