Dispatches from Frontier Schools by Sarah Beddow

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 124 pgs.
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Dispatches From Frontier Schools by Sarah Beddow is an in-depth account of teacher in a poorly funded charter school and the pull of an educator to fulfill their passion in educating children and the tension it comes with when there is little funding, students are hard to reach, and family takes a back seat to her students. In the opening poem, “Dispatch for: [redacted]” the poet says, “I do not want    do not want cannot/stand this world/for them  So I touched/ her and listened.    She did/not dissolve    today but/surely she will/and/if I can   I will be/the nurse who notices   the silent shivering  the silent tears   and brings/an extra blanket//” (pg. 16)

Throughout this collection, readers will experience what it is like inside the classroom, dealing with managers, and caring deeply for students. She wants to reward her most engaged students, but the world seems to conspire against even the simplest rewards – a donut party. There’s a deep sadness in some of these poems. It’s clear the narrator of these poems is dedicated to her students, but teaching itself is hard enough without having to handle the pressures of the administration and compliance with rules. in “Dispatch re: Complaince” “I have / nothing else / to give   no ideas better than these / no students more woke / no donuts / no tears left to cry in the parking lot dawn / no me” (pg. 19)

Beddow tackles guns in school, education compliance, testing, inter-personal relationships between students, teen pregnancy, and how teachers must be involved but not be too involved in students’ lives. From “Dispatch re: Our Scholars” (pg. 55), “To take children of color and   performatively / age them into such series / stuffy  academics Lock them away in / an ivory tower  until they / emerge civil and / obedient  fit to meet the nation’s needs”

Dispatches From Frontier Schools by Sarah Beddow is a deeply moving collection of horror and beauty in educating students in a tumultuous time where students and teachers are under enormous pressures. Beddow is a masterful storyteller; she will have readers crying and thinking deeply about our education system.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Sarah Beddow is a poet, wife and mother. She is the author of the book Dispatches from Frontier Schools (Riot in Your Throat) and the chapbook What’s pink & shiny/what’s dark and hard (Porkbelly Press). Her poems and essays have appeared in Bone Bouquet, Menacing Hedge, Entropy, GlitterMOB, and elsewhere. She has degrees in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and Sarah Lawrence College. After completing her MFA in poetry, she earned an MS in Urban Education from Mercy College and spent nearly a decade teaching high school English. Though she now works in educational publishing, she looks forward to one day returning to the classroom.

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 37 pgs.
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Our Wolves by Luanne Castle is a chapbook that hinges on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, in which Castle explores themes of identity, feminism, and gender. Red is no longer merely a victim in these tales, she’s feisty and strong-willed, and in some ways she’s manipulative. Granny even plays a more integral role and explores what it means to be the excuse in a story. Castle also brings to the fore the role of the hunter and/or wood cutter found in folklore.

From “A Snowy Night in Manistee River Valley” (pg. 10), “I need to get outside,/let the chill wind wake me to myself./If it gets me, I’ll be clearheaded enough/to see what has substance, sharp enough/” There are often wolves that lurk in the dark of our minds, and here we see that isolation can breed some of that darkness and fear.

From "School for Girls Who Shouldn't Trust" (pg. 13)

Just kneel them down to check their hems,
keep their thighs covered, their minds intent.
Let them learn karate and debate to live with
men and beasts without damage or regret.
Nobody warns them about the animal calls
or signs that susurrate through the drainpipes.

There is so much to love in this collection and Castle’s imagination. Her poems provide us an alternate story, but they are by no means a retelling of Red’s tale. It is more a psychological exploration of characters in a tale where a young girl becomes/is a victim. How tired are we of this trope as women? We need to be saved? We are only victims and incomplete without the man in our lives to save us. How many times have we been in charge of our own destinies for better or worse? Castle explores all of these questions and scenarios while illuminating the wolves we face within and outside of ourselves.

Our Wolves by Luanne Castle may be few pages but they pack a powerful punch. Castle never ceases to surprise me as a reader.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Luanne Castle lives in Arizona, next to a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. She has published two full-length poetry collections, Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press 2022) and Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay 2015), which won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Kin Types (Finishing Line Press 2017), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Our Wolves (Alien Buddha Press 2023) is her second chapbook. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals.

National Poetry Month 2023

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

I encourage everyone to read poetry this month or take in a reading near you.

Every day, you can get a poem in inbox!

On April 26 at 7 p.m., the Academy of American Poets will host its virtual Poetry & the Creative Mind gala. You can register for free or make a donation.

If you’re a teacher, here are some classroom resources to help your students celebrate poetry.