Poetry Week # 6: A Reversal Poem

I had only come across one reversal poem before, when some former students, whom I taught to love poetry, sent me one. If you are not familiar with the idea, the poem reads very negative from top to bottom, and at the end challenges you to reverse these ideas and read the poem from bottom to top, in which case it becomes a very positive statement. I was very impressed with the challenge and difficulty of expressing two diametrically opposed views in the space of one poem, without changing any words at all. The poem most work both ways as written. I was daunted. However, last weekend, I bumped into a template for organizing this type of poem, and I thought that might make it more approachable as a form. At the very least, it gave me a starting place, so I thought I would give it a shot. I wanted to write a poem about the Slice of Life challenge, and how it seems impossible at the beginning, but it can be done and it can change our views about ourselves, about our writing practice, about our classrooms, etc. However, my poem did not want to be about that, no matter what I said. It wanted to be about education instead. So here is my first attempt (after some aborted drafts and stuttering starts) at a reversal poem. Read it from top to bottom, and then immediately reverse and read from the bottom to the top. One way is about the messages our culture sends about teaching, and the other is what I believe about teaching despite these messages.

I am a failure because I am a teacher

and I refuse to believe that

I can make a difference

I realize this may be a shock, but

Education changes lives

Is a lie

The education system is a failure

In 30 years, I will tell my children that

I have my priorities straight because


Is more important than

A child

I tell you this:

Once upon a time

Energetic teachers engaged children

But this will not be true in my era

Standardized testing rules all

Experts tell me

Teaching is easy and teachers are public parasites

I do not conclude that

Exceptional teachers abound

In the future

Only the incompetent teach

No longer can it be said that

Teachers are heroes

It will be evident that

American schools are broken

It is foolish to presume that

Teaching matters

And all of this will come true unless we reverse it.



7 thoughts on “Poetry Week # 6: A Reversal Poem

  1. A very interesting form, and a very cool poem! I’ve never tried writing this form, but I see how it’s (even more of) a challenge to find just the right words.

    Liked by 1 person

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