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A Nature Poem about Assessment

January 19, 2011

No photos today–but a poem with such wonderfully evoked images that I could “see” it clearly.

Author Paul Willis sent it out to “teacher-friends” earlier this week–I feel fortunate to be part of that group, and share the poem with his permission. By the way…he’s got a new eco-fantasy novel (just out in December 2010) and other  great books of nature essays (he’s a former wilderness guide and life-long observer of nature) and nature poems–including human nature as one of his favorite subjects. His words about baseball, family, and the outdoors are vivid, and make me want to both smile and tear up at the same time. Kind of like his poem about assessment . . .


By Paul Willis

Ninety-five percent of those who read this poem

will experience a sense of wonder. The other

five percent are wondering how to arrive

at this statistic. For evidence is what is needed.

Otherwise the poem will never gain accreditation,

and no one will want to attend. We could ask

for a show of hands, but some of the readers are related

to the poet, and nothing surprises them anymore.

If the poem is read aloud, carefully trained monitors

could be placed in the audience to count

the number of mouths agape in stupefaction

or in slumber. How many persons are leaning

forward, eager for the next word? This is an angle

our monitors can quietly measure, pulling

from their back pockets a gathering hush

of collapsible wooden protractors.

If all else fails, electrodes may be placed

on the correct lobes of the brain—

or for certain lines, on the genitals.

The results will be graphed on a table of outcomes

in the report that forever after must be stapled

to the body of this poem. Perhaps you have seen

a great blue heron lumbering down a pond for takeoff,

its feet entwined in dripping skeins of lily pads.

The morning sun illuminates the strain of the wings,

the encumbrance of roots and petals

dragging their weight across the dark brown of the water.

The bird never rises. No wonder.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 24, 2013 9:58 am

    Hi thanks so much for sharing this and thank you to Paul Willis for his words and word images. I am off tomorrow to facilitate a workshop about ASSESSMENT and this poem is something that I will read aloud to help us stay balanced and remember what matters. I believe that the heron will yet rise.

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