This past week was the last week in which I posted new prompts for the Sophomore Summer Blogging assignment. I needed to come up with a poetry prompt that drew on poems from the latter pages of our anthology, so I found three I liked and built a prompt around them. The poems were by Yusef Komunyakaa, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Gary Soto.
As I was reading some students’ responses, I was reminded of how much I love the poem I assigned them by Soto, “Mexicans Begin Jogging.” I fell in love with Soto’s work when I heard him read in NYC while I was still in college. He was a nominee for the National Book Award, and all of the nominees did a reading together. One of the authors for whom my mother was a literary agent, Dennis Covington, was nominated that year, so my mom had a spare ticket and invited me to the reading. I told her afterwards how much I enjoyed Soto’s poetry, and she got me a signed copy of the book at an event later that night (or maybe it was the next day). I haven’t looked at the book in a while, and when I pulled it off my shelf, I discovered that Soto wrote me a personalized birthday greeting (clearly at my mother’s request). I’m sure I was deeply appreciative at the time, but over the intervening 18 years, I had forgotten that the inscription was so kind. I turned 22 in 1995, so that would have been my senior year at Columbia. I imagine that most of the students in the Class of 2017 who are doing this summer blogging assignment were born in 1999 or 2000. Still, here we all are; enjoying a poem from all of our different work-spaces scattered around the globe, about to get back together for the start of the school year in one week.
To my students: Be cool!