Arts in Education

Arts in Education

Alumni & Careers

Dorothea “Dottie” Lasky, Ed.M.06, in AWE


“A poem is like a sparkly ring,

It must be glittering at different points as the light hits it.”

-from “The Sign Element and the Ability of the Speech Animal”

In writing poems of such fresh verbal fun as those found in her recently published collection AWE, Dottie Lasky, Ed.M.’2006, did with words what children do with blocks—piled them high, with gleeful abandon, in ephemeral, experimental, and sometimes even seemingly arbitrary order to see if the colorful patterns can form a unique structure a reader might admire and gain some sort of mystical understanding from.

At the start of the book, you wonder what combination of influences Dottie is writing under—Wallace Stevens for his comic-philosophical poems, Gertrude Stein for her spliced streams of consciousness, John Asbery for his artful verbal dodgings. Midway through the book, you start to see that Dottie has been trying, in such poems as “The Dodo Bird,” “On Old Ideas,” and “I’ve Had a Million Friends,” “to shore these fragments against the ruin,” to quote T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland. By the end of the book you think she has done a charming and clever job of it—all the while seeming just to be having a good, innocent, childlike time.

These asymmetrical stacks of poetic utterance, in her quirky love poems, fractured epiphanies, daffy confessions, and mock manifestoes, do indeed glitter ‘at different points as the light hits them,’ without having undergone anxious attempts at right angularity and foolish consistency. In any given Dottie Lasky poem, as in any given kindergarten corner, the blocks might never seem to add up to a wholly recognizable structure, yet that’s the point. The sense of twisted words and half-formed ideas getting tumbled up from their scattered placements on the floor of our collective culture is nice, if disturbing for the portrayal of an ultimately fragmentary world.

Dottie came to HGSE with a couple years of educational work already behind her. After graduating from Washington University in her hometown of St. Louis, she completed an MFA in poetry from UMass—Amherst. Then, moving to Boston in 2004, she taught English at the New England Institute of Art in Brookline and painting and drawing at the Munroe Center for the Arts in Lexington. During a year of adventurous study at HGSE, she took courses in children’s literature, museum education, media arts, and other subjects—and continued to work on her poems. She looks back fondly at her time in the AIE program, particularly for the eye-opening experience of learning that “there are people who truly care how the arts occur in our educational system” and that “there was a place for my own deep concern for it.”

Now she is doing doctoral work in education at Penn, with a focus on the intersection of creativity and innovation and an eye toward a life in academia that would allow her the privilege of teaching the arts and producing them as well. She laments the “grossly undervalued” place of the arts in today’s society, and hopes that she can work as an educational scholar to promote, support, and nurture both creativity and innovation in public schools.

Reading the poems in AWE over a second and third time, you start to suspect that Dottie is one of those natural-born educators who are interested in the field because of their affinity for children—for the possibility childhood affords of an unguarded, headlong plunge into the playful—rather than for a wish to turn children into responsible adults as soon as humanly possible.

Indeed, like some children, Dottie’s poems are uninhibited and goofy, unflinching and candid about matters of the heart and flesh, and almost accidentally philosophical. The way she goes on, like an unfiltered child at play with blocks, it seems as if any moment she is going to make a pronouncement of such grace and gravity that she will finally sound like Yeats or Keats, figure it all out with a search-ending crescendo of illogical associations, and fulfill the promise of the book’s opening lines:

I knew that somehow in the midst of this confusion

Was the true dawning of myself.

But she undercuts each fluttery declaration with humor in the very next line. And that line itself turns out to be a fluttery declaration in its own right—another facet of the sparkly ring.

AWE is available from Wave Books. For ordering information, send an email to