I used to teach an Introduction to Literature Class for a local Junior College. It was a night course and a lot of fun to teach. I loved the literature anthology that was the textbook for the class. It had great short stories and plays, but my favorite part of the textbook was the poetry.
There was 'fun' poetry, difficult poetry, modern poetry, and old poetry. The whole premise of the text was to help students enjoy the use of language in many different forms.
I've used many of the poems in my high school English class. Students come in thinking they hate poetry, but quickly learn that they don't. They love the playfulness of some of the poems we study and the thoughtfulness of others.
This poem is one that has touched a lot of the dog lovers in both the college class and the high school class. I just went back to find it a few weeks ago.
She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, "Good dog!
We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.
Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest's bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet's, on my lap, she tried
To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.
Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.
By John Updike
I had a student teacher teach this poem to my sophomores. He brought in a video that he thought went well with the sentiment of the poem. I had never seen it before and loved this video from "The Best of Johnny Carson."
First of all, I've always been a fan of Jimmy Stewart. ("It's A Wonderful Life" is one of my favorite movies.) On this video he shares an orginal poem with Carson and his audience. It isn't often that a room full of noisy teens is speechless, but this video did it.