Writing our own Canon

Well, I guess I’ll just go back to my dirt.

Well, our puppet show performances came off well last week. What I mean by that is not that it was perfect by adult standards, but that the students felt really good about it. They enjoyed it and worked with a tremendous amount of focus to make it their best. Also, there were cupcakes.

Kenneth Koch, the poet/teacher whose books are a big inspiration for me, writes about how as his classes wrote poetry they began to form their own literature that included not only famous poems but their own work. The same thing happened with our plays. The Seattle play has a line that Frog says after Masked Shrew deceitfully tells him that Wolverine doesn’t want to be his friend (it’s a full on soap opera in this forest, let me tell you):

“Well, I guess I’ll just go back to my dirt. From now on I’ll only have frogs for friends. And I won’t drink anymore stupid coffee. I don’t even like coffee. I like tea.”

The audience didn’t laugh at this line, but the class agrees it’s the best line of the play. They go around saying “I don’t even like coffee. I LIKE TEA!”* It’s become a sort of assertion of personal truth, while “I guess I’ll just go back to my dirt” is the ultimate sad response.

But not only are the classes delighting in their own work, they’re quoting each other. They’re making work that resonates with their peers. They’re writing their own canon of literature. You can tell because they’re all yelling in unison, “It’s Joe the Desert Beetle’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandpa Bob!”

* And on a side note, the part about the dirt came from their scientific research. Turns out, Pacific Tree Frogs often live in the dirt.