I have always been a lover of words. Ever since I can remember, my favourite activity, if ever given the choice, would be to read. I love books! The way a new book feels in your hands, the smell of old books neglected on the library shelf, the sound of the spine cracking for the first time that delighted me as a child but now sets my teeth on edge as an adult. I love being sucked into someone else’s imagination and watching it play out in my own. But I have never really gotten into poetry.
When I was in my early-mid 20’s (like 24) I was just home from my first Korean contract and was waiting to hear back from all the teacher’s colleges I had applied to. I was working in a Tim Hortons (what else is a Canadian girl to do?) and one night I was put in charge of the teenagers. Lucky for me, I had a team of mostly boys, and after the last girl had left for the evening, the “ring leader” of the boys, whipped around, stood at full attention, clicked his boots and said “what now, Captain my captain!?” I new this was from some poem but didn’t know which one. When I was finally released for the night from the four walls of hell that is working at Tim Hortons, I took the time to find out – and let me tell you, I was in LOVE! I’m not sure if Walt Whitman was writing just to make my heart fall in love with him and his words, but it definitely seems that way.
Now, I hope the link that I’ve provided works for you, because you really need to see the words styled the way that they are in the document. I used this poem while in teacher’s college, since I was in charge of teaching a bunch of 10 year olds to love poetry. I started with “Oh Captain, My Captain” because just the sound of the words and the beat in my heart fills my life with happiness for the day. So the link is an automatic word doc download, I apologize. I don’t want to critique it myself, I want to share with you the remarks from my students – my brilliant, wonderful students. So click the link for reference and here we go! O Captain my captain
“Miss – I liked how you walked around the room while reading it. And your voice! It really made me think about the words”
“You said this was written in 1865? That’s like the civil war right? That totally makes sense” (I told them the year and asked what they thought that meant)
When asked why Walt might have written it “Well……the civil war…..I guess cos people were fighting? And fighting back then happened a lot at sea?”
I told them he wrote it for a friend, how he admired President Lincoln and wrote this after his death. “Oh, so like Lincoln was his captain? Did he have a ship? That would have been cool!”
Then I explained the significance of how America was the ship. “HEY!!! I GOT IT!” *gentle reminder to raise a hand instead of shouting* “ok! ok…ok….look at the words….can I come up? ok look at the words here *draws around a paragraph, and keeps drawing* look – the words, they make a BOAT!” Ok, go back to the link you opened, the words totally make a boat shape! “So like, the words make a boat, since Lincoln was the captain of America, which means he controls the boat and tells people what to do to make sure the boat is ok. And the boat is safe, which means the America is safe. So it was ok for him to die cos America was safe”
From the lips of children my friends. What smart little cookies. Now I just love this poem so much more, after having the connection with my class. It was our first in our poetry segment, and the next 3 weeks were filled with great exploration of language.