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  • “I Am Not I”
    By Juan Ramón Jiménez 1881–1958 Juan Ramon Jimenez
    Translated By Robert Bly

    I am not I.
    I am this one
    walking beside me whom I do not see,
    whom at times I manage to visit,
    and whom at other times I forget;
    who remains calm and silent while I talk,
    and forgives, gently, when I hate,
    who walks where I am not,
    who will remain standing when I die.

    Every Monday and with every class, I begin our 55 minutes together with a poem dictation - an activity that goes like this: I write the title and author of the poem on the board and then begin the recitation by reading each line twice - along with the punctuation. Each student has a writer's notebook where he or she enscribes the poem on the left side of the open notebook and leaves the right clean page for what I like to call "musings". After the dictation we go onto other exciting LA things like vocabulary, the next writing piece, a little grammar, a good story, etc. Come Tuesday, we pull that puppy out - the poem - for a little "musing" time. I have some questions posted such as: What word surprises you? What word don't you "get"? What word doesn't belong? and so on.

    Today, I asked two pointed questions about THIS poem: MUSE about why the poet structured the first two lines as he did - and - who might "this one" be in line two?

    The responses of my students were thoughtful and intriguing, once again reminding me why I do what I do, why I love what I do as well as those I do it with - I teach.

    There were so many responses that I had to use that teacher line: Make a list, and, why just go ahead and number it 1 (one) to...oh, whatever, 9 or 10 or 11 or 12...whatever you want!

    Responses:

    1) "I think the first two lines set us up for a contrast or a comparison, ya know, between who
    someone is on the outside and who that same person is on the inside."

    2) "I think that there are two people in this poem."

    3) "I think maybe the "I" who is not "I" is really saying I want to be like this other person."

    Me.: " Hmm, very interesting...go on."

    4) "I think that the second line is the 'other guy's" better self - the kind of person he wants
    to be."

    Me: "So and so, that is very insightful" (They like to be described as "insightful")

    5) "Hey, I think "this one" might be his conscience or his spirit"

    6) "No, look at the last line of the poem, dude, 'this one' is gonna still be standing when
    the other dude dies...it must be a someone separate from the one in the first line."

    Me: Very thoughtful, so and so, would you mind elaborating on that a little?"

    7) "Yeah, I see what you are talking about...'this one' would have to be someone we
    forget, do not see, who remains quiet and gently, forgives, and will still remain
    when we are gone.

    8) "Could it be God?"
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