For this issue on “Questions,” entrants tended to focus on a single, fundamental question — whether personal or political, existential or
concrete — for which the poem’s speaker has yet
to find an answer.
To question is a fundamental act of human
agency. However, in her winning poem “
¿Questioning?” Jo Ann Causey draws on her experience
as a special education instructor to imagine her
way into the mind of a special needs child who experiences questions not as a prelude to discovery,
not as an invitation to dialogue or dialectics, but as
an attack for which the only response is retreat.
Beat down by the classroom’s “ticking clock,”
by a teacher’s questions — first as part of the les-
son, then aimed directly and critically at the child
— as well as his own despairing wondering, “why
me?,” the boy, overwhelmed by language experi-
enced as weapon, responds not with word but with
“discordant, high pitched tones.” He’d “rather
hear the classroom birds/chirping,” Causey writes,
as it’s “[m]usic that makes him feel smart.”
If the ability to question is at the core of what it
means to be human, “¿Questioning?” reminds us
that empathetic listening is at the heart of what it
means to be humane.
— Sandra Meek, poetry editor
Jo Ann Causey graduated from California
State University, Long Beach, where she joined
Phi Kappa Phi. She is in an education specialist
for Long Beach Unified School District. She has
taught reading, English and skill development at
Lakewood High School for the past nine years. Her
latest educational effort was to obtain an add-on
credential to teach students with autism. She has
an M.S. in Special Education and an English single subject credential
while maintaining a k12 credential. She herself has struggled with
learning and empathizes with her students, which prompted this latest
poetic effort. Email her at email@example.com.
Who? What? When? Why? Where?
Which one to answer first?
The who is over there
by the wayside, at his worst.
The what is left behind.
The one who never gets it.
It isn’t even in his mind,
to question and so he must sit.
Sit there thinking he’s dumb.
Not ever knowing another way.
His brain begins to go numb.
It’s like this day after day
When the teacher starts to talk
and asks questions again.
He gets up to take a walk
and then he’s asked when?
When are you gonna sit down?
Always up out of your seat!
Acting like a class clown!
accused, ashamed, he’s beat.
Beat down by the ticking clock
and the relentless “why me?”
His brain’s in perpetual shock.
Why can’t anybody ever see?
the emptiness in his eyes…
the nagging wont of gain…
the thirst that is his demise…
Does anyone else feel pain?
pain for more than themselves
to have to put up with him
are they as overwhelmed as he
at his lack-of-knowledge whim
you’d think that’s what it was
to hear what he hears them say
the words ring in his ears because
discordant, high pitched tones is his way
to drown out the sound of the words
that hurt and tear at his heart
he’d rather hear the classroom birds
chirping. Music makes him feel smart.
By Jo Ann Causey
Sandra Meek (Colorado State University) will
publish her fifth book of poetry, An Ecology
of Elsewhere, in fall 2015 with Persea Books.
Meek also edited the anthology Deep Travel:
Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark
Press, 2007). Recipient of a National Endowment
for the Arts creative writing fellowship in poetry
and twice named Georgia Author of the Year, Meek
is a cofounding editor of Ninebark, director of the Georgia Poetry
Circuit, and Dana Professor of English, Rhetoric and Writing at Berry
Attention, poets: The poetry contest is open to active
Society members, published or unpublished. Submissions —
one per entrant per issue — should be up to 40 lines long and
must reflect the theme of the edition. One original, previously unpublished poem is selected for the printed version. Runners-up may appear online. The next contest will be for the
fall 2015 edition, theme of “Innovation.” Entry deadline is
midnight, July 3, 2015, only by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For complete rules and details, go online to www.