What’s Staring At You?

 

It’s poetry month and we couldn’t let it slip by without posting a poem.

Poetry isn’t afraid to handle difficult topics. Ignoring, denying, or pretending that something doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes, we must name that which stares us in the face. By giving it a name and dragging it into the light, we see it for what it is. Samantha Hoehle does just this with her brave poem, “A Constant Battle.”  A senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, Samantha wrote this on the campus of Western Michigan University during a “Courage to Create” poetry workshop offered as part of Kalamazoo’s annual MLK Day Celebration.

 

A Constant Battle

Racism stares at me from across the table.
Callous, he tries to fill my head with beliefs that cut me to the core.
I do not want to live with him.
I do not want him to talk to me.
I wish he would disappear.
But he has dug his roots deep into the earth—
And while many of us try to uproot him,
Others create avalanches of hatred and ignorance
Pushing the dirt back into our holes,
Adamant he stays.
Racism reaches out his hand to “help” us,
Sneering upon rejection,
Blatantly stating he is in the right.
But no. He is wrong.
Racism tries to creep in, and I push him out, continuing to dig.
I will not let him turn me into something he would be proud to see.
I am not sorry.

Samantha Hoehle

 

And if you missed the two student poems we published back in January, you can find them here.

 

Two Students Savor the Season

Today, we’re grateful for Kalamazoo Public School students like Wesley and Lexi, who take in this season of thanks through all their senses. Both are third graders at King-Westwood Elementary School and are just beginning to write poetry with their teacher, Mrs. Laura McCoy. Their poems remind us that it is good to slow down and pay attention to the world around us.

Fall

I see leaves changing colors in the fall,
I smell all the delicious pies people make,
I hear most birds chirping on fall days,
I taste homemade Mac n’ cheese my mom makes,
I touch plates to eat my food in the holidays,
This is what it’s like in fall.
-Wesley

The Fall of the Year

Fall is near at last,
I see leaves falling,
I smell fresh caramel apples or apple pie,
I hear leaves crunching as I walk,
I taste the yummy pumpkin bread,
I like walking on the crunchy leaves,
Fall is now done……………..
-Lexi

Thank you, Wesley and Lexi, for sharing your poetry with us!

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The Beat of Summer

Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!
Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!

Students are packing a lot of fun and learning into these six weeks of their CIS Think Summer! program*. At the Prairie Ridge Elementary School site, Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (a partnership between Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) have been making music and more.

Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!
Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!

If you visited the summer program during the last week in July and stepped into the “Italy” group, rising 5th-7th graders, you would have overheard student conversations like this:

“Is poetry considered art or is it academics?”
“It’s academic because we’re learning about it during our academic time.”
“Yea, we talked about adjectives and abstract nouns.”
“I think poetry is art. It makes me feel inside like when I do art.”
“It feels a little bit like music, too.”
“I think it’s both.”

What do you think? You can ponder this question as you read two new poems created by Sahriah and Javan. These KIT students, along with the rest of their classmates, created poems inspired by Jo Harjo’s poem, “She had some horses.” These are just two examples of the tremendous student work being done at all levels throughout CIS Think Summer!

We played some music

She played some songs.
He played his instrument that was out of tune.
She played her songs that were sounding good.
I played Barber of Seville that didn’t sound as good.

Sahriah played some orchestra music.

Gabby played in a concert with Mozart.
Ann played conga with Nathan.
Zach played the blues that sounded happy.

LaMeeka played some cello music.
Naomi played some flute music with Nyareve.
Miyah played some clarinet songs with Javon.

This was the same music.

                                             -Sahriah Casey

 

I played some fragile chords of truth

I played some frantic tunes of beauty.
He played applause in dreams that were tired.
She played a measure of music that was colorful.
He played cute keys that were full of courage.

She played some waltz music.

I played instruments with care.
I played colorful measures with amazement.
He played music that moved us.

He played some chords.
She played some concert music that changed the world.
She played some beautiful tunes from the waltz.

This was the same waltz.

-Javan Harris

 

Cheers to all the youth development workers, site coordinators, VISTAs, volunteers, and school and community partners who are working together to provide the best CIS Think Summer! yet! Cheers to horses, poetry, and music, too!

*The CIS Think Summer! program is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers.)

_______________, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.
Miss Viri, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.

Poetry Fuels Young Minds

We can’t let April slip by without a nod to poetry. Whether a student is reading and writing poetry in April or December, poetry enhances literacy, builds community, aids in creative problem solving, and fosters social-emotional resilience. Students who have disengaged from learning because of problems outside of the classroom can often be re-engaged through poetry.

On the heels of the hugely successful Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, it’s clear poetry is alive and well throughout the city (and beyond). Here now are six reasons we know poetry is fueling the minds of some of our 12,000+ students, who are tapping into this ancient art form to learn about themselves and the world around them.

1. CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Nicholas Baxter believes in the power of poetry. He shares his talent and passion for poetry within the Kalamazoo Public Schools, running a poetry workshop at Arcadia Elementary School. Every Thursday, budding poets spend their lunchtime reading, writing, and learning about poetry. Here is Nicholas with (left to right) Roziya Rustamova, Aceanna Williams, Nabaa Eyddan, and Reem Ahmed.

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2.  If you didn’t get the chance to read Tristan Pierce’s poem, “Time Waits 4 No Man!” then head over to CIS Connections and read it now because, as this Parkwood student reminds us, time waits for no one.

3.  As a CIS volunteer, I recently had the pleasure of stepping into Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts and offering a poetry lesson to Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third graders. I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Parlato as a literacy warrior. 

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Like all great teachers, she sets clear boundaries for her students while maintaining a sense of fun and fueling their desire to learn. Every one of her students actively participated in the poetry workshop and wrote at least one poem. Woods Lake’s CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill, impressed with the students’ creativity, said, “Poetry really brings home how important and enriching vocabulary can be.”                                                                   

4.  This past March, 30 Kalamazoo Public School students read their original poems at Chenery Auditorium as part of the inaugural Spoken Word Middle School Poetry event. Superintendent Michael Rice noted that, by sharing their poems that evening, students offered the audience “a sense of who they are and how they are going to have an impact on their world.” You can read more about the event and watch the performances by going here.

5.  Friends of Poetry, an almost 40-year old organization which promotes the reading and writing of poetry throughout the greater Kalamazoo area, is gobbling up poems students throughout the area sent for consideration in their annual “Poems That Ate Our Ears” contest. While winners haven’t been announced yet, we can’t help but think of what Hillside Middle School Principal McKissack said upon reflecting on Hillside’s strong showing at the second annual MLK “Courage to Create” Celebration.

Principal McKissack out at WMU with Hillside students and staff

A number of his students made it to the semi-finalist round, read their work at Western Michigan University and took a number of top prizes in the poetry competition. He was proud, “not of the winning part, but I was overjoyed by the hard work they put into getting there—the reading, studying, the questions they asked. They didn’t give up.”

Young people, through poetry, are putting their voice out into the world. That’s a brave, beautiful, and winning act in itself.

6.  Consider this group poem, written by Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third grade students:

Recipe for Success

First, take twenty dabs of sleep and let gently rest.

Then take food and water and pour it into a cup.

Add a lifetime of teachers for a heaping harvest

of education so that we can use the Promise

to get the career we love.

After a good long day, roll up in a blanket.

Dream of what we’ve accomplished.