Mentor Text: Softball team at the ferry terminal after Provincials by Kirsten Pendreigh
- Point of View
One of my favourite autumn traditions recently happened – I picked up a copy of The Best American Poetry 2022. And last year, I added The Best Canadian Poetry annual volume to this tradition.
Perhaps it’s because we’re playing a bit with memoir in Grade 12. Perhaps it’s because winter is imminent, and the summer imagery in this poem is lovely. Perhaps it’s because we’re approaching the time when I’m both farthest from our last visit to the East coast and our next visit, and this poem makes me think of home.
It’s a beautiful poem from The Best Canadian Poetry 2021, and it feels like the perfect choice for my first November post for the reasons above, as well as it being a wonderful mentor text.
How we might use this text:
Memoir- Now, I’ll admit, the imagery in this poem calls to me because I have memories of the ferry crossing between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island that it evokes.
But aside from that, it’s actually a pretty universal poem. When we’re working with memoir, many students in their last year of high school really enjoy discussing their memories around school trips, for sports, or band and other extra curriculars. It’s often not the game or event they’re reliving though, but moments of the trip itself.
Pendreigh’s poem is a wonderful capture of what I think I might describe as the periphery of such trips. It’s about the trip home. I really think it’s neat to explore the details around the big game, or important event – the way the excitement lingers, the acknowledgement that the passage of time can change the importance of a moment.
In fact, for the teacher side of me, the prompt that goes with this mentor text is the exciting thing – write about the trip home after an exciting event. It’s reflective, especially with that ending.
Imagery – Sure, I have specific memories triggered by the imagery in this poem, but I bet students do too. They may actually have photos in their camera roll that will serve to remind them of those moments after the game, their trip home.
This poem, to me reads like someone describing a couple of pictures from that trip. There’s a detachment, where the emotions are discussed with less focus than the imagery. There are clear visuals captured. There are moments when it feels as if Pendreigh has focused on adding sound and motion to a still photo. It’s beautiful and evocative imagery.
Point of View – That detachment I mentioned above is vital to the success of this piece, which makes it a key mentor text moment. Instead of writing in the first person, discussing how they felt, the speaker in the poem is almost acting as an observer. I imagine the conversations we’ll have with our writers working on this piece, going from recalling and recounting their memories and emotions to taking a step outside of themselves, and channeling their emotions about the moment from the outside, more as an observer than a participant.
And this step outside adds to the reflective nature of the poem. In the last couplet, “…Next season, they may not sign up again./Their cleats may still fit, but they will be different.” is so evocative. There is something in this about the change inherent in growing up. I think this point of view really amplifies this as a memoir writing mentor text, as there is a reflective element, an acknowledgement of growth and change.
Prepping to add some new pieces to our memoir writing work had me checking out the flags sticking out of various books on my desk. I was so delighted to find this poem again, perfect as autumn firmly takes hold, and winter’s first chills feel closer. It’s a slice of summer that will encourage, I think, some great pieces when they set pens to paper.
What traditions do you have as a reader that bear fruit in your classroom? Are their pieces you’ve got that evoke clear moments for you that you want to share with your writers to see what happens?
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