Thursday, April 9, 2020

Hard to Catch

The real fear that I have for dyslexic people is not that they have to struggle with jumbled input or that they can’t spell, but that they will quit on themselves before they get out of school.
~Stephen J. Cannell

I'd like to thank Liz Steinglass for sharing her "Things I Wish You Knew" poem with us today.

What I wish you knew about me
by Elizabeth Steinglass

Words are not
a way to pour
a fact or story
into my head.
Words to me
are birds,
feathered, taloned,
hard to catch,
and when I do,
they flap and fight
and won’t lie flat
in alphabetized folders
I can find
when I come back.
For me pages full of
words represent
the exhausting chore
of snaring a flock
of swallows.


To learn more about dyslexia, visit the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.


Would you like to send a poem to a poetry friend and receive one in return? Join the Summer Poem Swap! You can do 1-5 swaps. Usually we mail them, which is still an option this year, but I wanted to include emailing them as an option due to our current circumstances. You email me your name and address by April 24, and by May 1, I will send you information about the people who you will be sending poems.

Swap 1: ends June 8 (send a poem by then)
Swap 2: ends June 22
Swap 3: ends July 6
Swap 4: ends July 20
Swap 5: ends August 3

If you will be busy during one time period, you can not do that swap OR you can do that swap early. You have to send a poem by that date, but there's nothing that says you can't write the poem whenever you want! To join, email me at tabatha(at)tabathayeatts(dot)com. (I've received some folks' registrations already. Thanks, y'all!)


The Poem Farm has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Amy!


Linda Mitchell said...

Liz, that's an incredible voice to the fight to read. I cannot imagine. But, some of my favorite young people struggle with this and I want to share this poem with them. The talons and the flight despite the beauty and softness of feathers. Well done. Thank you for this look inside a difficult condition.

Liz Steinglass said...

Thanks, Linda! I hope it will ring true for your students. I am not dyslexic, but many of my closest loved ones are (it is genetic). I often say I have had a front row seat my entire life. One of my sons helped me make sure my poem reflected his experience.

Janice Scully said...

Thank you for this lovely poem. I had a brother who I believe now struggled with dyslexia. It was at a time when problems with reading were not understood well and not talked about. I wish teachers had known more.

Kay said...

I love this poem, Liz--it is such a powerful metaphor for the struggles that dyslexia can create. I know some of my students would echo its sentiments and completely relate.

Tabatha, thank you for organizing the poem swap again this summer. I'll send you my information.

Irene Latham said...

Beautiful poem, Liz, and resonates with me as I've grown to know dyslexia through my husband and one of our sons. Words aren't for everyone, that's for sure! And thank you, Tab, for being poem-swapping you. xo

HATBOOKS Author Holly Thompson said...

I love Liz's poem comparing words to birds "feathered, taloned, hard to catch" and this attention on dyslexia. Thanks!

Carol Varsalona said...

When children struggle with reading, the words "do flap and flight and won't lie flat". I have made a career of helping those struggling with reading (not just dyslexia). The struggle is real so Liz you captured that beautifully. Thanks, Tabatha for the poem swap information.

jama said...

Fabulous poem, Liz. I don't have any firsthand knowledge of dyslexia, and you've helped me understand it better. Your bird metaphor is brilliant!

Mary Lee said...

Thank you for sharing Liz. The quote you/Tabatha shared at the beginning of the post is so true.

author amok said...

We have people with dyslexia at my house. I love Liz's description -- words are birds, beautiful but hard to catch. They can be exhausting.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Thanks for sharing Liz's poem today, Tabatha. I especially love how she describes words as both "feathered" and "taloned," hinting at the frustration these readers must feel—the pull and push of wanting to read, to hold the softness, but fearing the talons that can make them feel like failures. I also love the quote you shared today. So sad. So true.

Amy LV said...

What a wise poem from Liz. So many who read this will feel heard and understood. Thank you as always, Tabatha, for opening our eyes...and for your generosity with these swaps. All health to you and to your loved ones. xx

Linda B said...

I have had many students diagnosed with dyslexia along with my oldest granddaughter, now almost 11. I will share with her. I like the metaphor of those fluttering birds, Liz. I do know that some students have described their challenge as making the words stand still. I'll share with my granddaughter for sure. Thank you for making the image something we all can attempt to imagine.

Sally Murphy said...

Thank you for the poem Liz - and for sharing it, Tabatha. I especially love that metaphor:
the exhausting chore
of snaring a flock
of swallows.
Such a vivid image!

michelle kogan said...

Thanks for sharing Liz's painfully sad, but important poem–the struggle is oozing out of it. Very powerful quote at the top–here's hoping there'll be someone there to guide them on. Thanks Tabatha for this sensitive post.

Catherine Flynn said...

Thank you, Liz and Michelle, for this touching poem about dyslexia. As a teacher who works with students who struggle with reading, I know how frustrating it is for them to try to catch those words that "won't lie flat/in alphabetized folders/I can find when I come back."

Bridget Magee said...

The images and emotion of this poem beats at the heart of what it must feel like to encounter 'pages full of words' when you have dyslexia. Thank you, Liz, for writing this poem so eloquently. And thank you, Tabatha, for shining your light on this and the many other subjects you've covered in your 'things I wish you knew' series. Be well. :)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Liz and Tabatha! Great stuff here. Hope you're both healthy and safe!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I hope it's not too late for you to see this, Tabatha and Liz. I'm knocked out: this poem is so immediate, so concrete, pitched just right between calamity and everyday struggle, yet expresses the joy of loving something beautiful and difficult.

jan godown annino said...

This poem from Liz is so lyrically & eloquently spot-on in capturing the duality of written language struggles. My experience is with a family member whose limitations were similar to dyslexia, tho the situation didn't fit that diagnosis. I'm going to share this with a diaability-assistance NGO I especially respect. Many thanks, to both Liz & Tabatha.

KatApel - said...

This is an insightful poem, Liz. I am going to share the link with teaching friends - who I'm hoping in turn can share it with students (and their parents) at the right times. It's not just a powerful way of letting others into the experience, but I'm sure it would also be affirming for students (and adults!) who have dyslexia. (And a whole bunch of other talents, too!) And I agree with Mary Lee - so true! So often these kids feel like failures, when really it's the system that has failed them!)

skanny17 said...


Your poem is so strong in its form and its purpose and its explanation. I am glad I found it today. You know I have taught and helped a number of dyslexic students. Having compassion, knowledge, awareness can help individuals find ways to deal with the perceptual issues that cloud the text they need to read in our print-dependent world. That all dyslexics can find their gifts and accept their personal constraints is so important. Yale has done yeoman's work to find a path forward or should I say many paths forward. I love your poem.
Janet Clare F.