April 18, 2013
Unlike his boss three years ago, Chancellor Dennis Walcott stuck to Emily Dickinson’s original script today while reading to a crowd on national Poem in Your Pocket Day.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought the springtime literary event to New York City in 2002 in conjunction with National Poetry Month. He has made a tradition out of plastering his own verses all over the city in celebration of the event — at awards ceremonies (2011), on Times Square billboards (2012), and, this year, in the pages of Metro New York.
In 2010, Bloomberg again read a poem of his own creation, but drew inspiration from Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is The Thing With Feathers.”
Reading to a crowd of students and other poetry fans in Bryant Park, Walcott picked the same poem — but stuck to the words as Dickinson intended.
This video catches his performance midway through the second stanza:
Students from nine schools, including deaf and hearing-impaired students from the American Sign Language and English Secondary School, also recited poems on stage at the event.
In 2011, Walcott read Langston Hughes’ “I Dream A World” in 2011, a week after becoming chancellor. A few months earlier, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein excerpted his favorite T.S. Elliot poem, “Little Gidding” as part of a final goodbye that promised teacher layoffs and called for an end to the state’s seniority-based pink slip process.
After his reading, Walcott spoke about a different literacy event taking place this week: the English language arts state exams. Many teachers proctoring the tests complained that many students could not finish in time and left some questions unanswered because they were too long.
“I think it’s incumbent on the state, which I think that they’ll do, to do an analysis as far as the goals of the test and how the goals were met,” Walcott said.
Below is Dickinson’s poem:
“Hope” is a thing with feathers
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all
And sweetest in the Gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of Me.
— Emily Dickinson