Tregebov, R Taking It In Educational Insights, 11(1).
[Available: http://www.ccfi.educ.ubc.ca/publication/insights/v11n01/articles/tregebov.html]

Teaching Poetry

Rhea Tregebov
University of British Columbia

I find teaching of any sort an act of the sympathetic imagination, the ability to apprehend your students’ position(s) in relationship to the knowledge they need to gain. It’s odd, but I still remember vividly my own first day in a creative writing class, and I believe this helps me understand the psychological dynamic of the aspiring writer.

For some students, one of the most difficult aspects of pursuing their aspirations is having the confidence to name themselves as writer; being able to name and claim their own experiences and perceptions as valid. This was certainly an issue for me for many years. By creating an atmosphere of respect in my workshop classes, I hope to encourage those students who are somewhat hesitant to have faith in themselves.

I do, however, like to combine a supportive atmosphere with one that is challenging. I’m not going to fiddle with someone’s commas when it seems that they’re defended against the content they’re trying to express: I’m going to encourage them to confront that content and let it emerge.

This focus on digging into content is particularly important in my graduate classes, where the students come into the courses already having strong skills. What is interesting and exciting to observe is how the students working at this level affect and inspire each other. I see a lot of courage in my students’ work, and I see that quality inspire courage in others. It’s a very heartening experience.

 

Thoughts About Teaching Poetry
(7 minute video–10MB)

 

Poems

Taking It In

The Top of My Head

Without Asking

© Valerie Triggs

 

Taking It In

I call to ask you about property taxes
and you tell me about the light.
Every time I call, my prudent
father, you tell me about the light,
the way it comes in through the window
and moves over the floor, over
the kitchen table, how it lays hands
on everything. And I listen, and see 
you at the kitchen table in Winnipeg,
the crisp blue sky a rectangle
in the window. Oh love.
That gives me a window
like this, a father, light.
I think you are going
like oak, like brandy, like
dark wine. The good stuff
you’re made of taking the light in.

 

 

© Rhea Tregebov
from (alive): Selected and new poems, Wolsak & Wynn 2004

Poem Index

© Valerie Triggs

 

The Top of My Head

I get to the corner the way I get from one day to the next:
abstracted, mostly afraid, not entirely located in my body.
I get from one day to the next mostly afraid
while the boy in the playground at Huron Street, who must be seven or eight,
slides the toe of his black, shiny, rubber cowboy boot
along the black, shiny slick water atop the ice;
observes its wake, the bent, cold-burnt blade of grass afloat in its wake,
and underneath it all, the earth, cold and thrilling beneath the cold rubber sole
of his boot, and in his boot his foot, in his foot the warm blood running,
him. It is false spring at the end of January, plus eight degrees
and the water is running, it is running enough to make you believe spring.
The boy can’t remember how cold it was yesterday, can’t hold winter in his mind.
And here I sit, by the equipment issue at the Athletic Centre, writing this,
and, god almighty, don’t know how I got here.

 

 

© Rhea Tregebov
from (alive): Selected and new poems, Wolsak & Wynn 2004

Poem Index

© detail of The Spell – copyright Paloma Vitta

Without Asking

My son opens his eyes in sleep
and looks up at me
from the bottom of his dream,
looks up at me from wherever he is to
wherever I am and who am I and who is he

in the gravity of a regard? What
constricts the muscles in
my chest and throat. It is
five years to the day
since I came to the hospital bed

where all seventeen months of his life
were contracted into the heart
of the machine that breathed
for him; a life I learned
could be turned on

or off like the thin,
translucent plastic of the faucet
the doctors slipped into the artery
of his wrist to gently draw
the blood-gas samples, the numbers

that would tell us everything;
all seventeen months drawn up
into the tightness in my own chest.
So small a body connected to
so many things,

especially me;
and I had so much tenderness,
even for myself,
I forgave everything
because he was alive.

Where does that look
come from and from where
does the knowledge that informs
it come?
What is this

we are given
without asking,
without expectation; what is this
we accept
with such little surprise.

 

 

© Rhea Tregebov
from Mapping the Chaos, Véhicule Press, 1995

Poem Index

 

About the Author

Rhea Tregebov

Rhea Tregebov was born in Saskatoon, raised in Winnipeg and lived for many years in Toronto. Her sixth book of poetry, a volume of selected and new poems entitled (alive), was released by Wolsak and Wynn in September 2004. Tregebov has also published five children's picture books, including The Big Storm, and is the editor of nine anthologies of essays, poetry and fiction for a number of presses, most recently Gifts: Poems for Parents. She edited and assisted in the translation of a tenth anthology, Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, which is forthcoming in Spring 2007. She is also currently working on her first novel.

Tregebov received Honorable Mention for the National Magazine Awards (poetry) in 1998. She is a co-winner of the Malahat Review Long Poem Competition in 1994 and received the Readers' Choice Award for Poetry from Prairie Schooner in 1993. Her first collection of poetry won the Pat Lowther Award in 1983. For many years she taught Creative Writing for Ryerson Continuing Education and worked as a freelance editor of adult and young adult fiction as well as poetry. From 2002 to 2004, she was Coordinating Editor for Sumach Press. In January of 2005, she began work as Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at UBC teaching poetry and translation.

 

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