Monday, October 27, 2008

From Poem to Essay

Tonight six Dream Keepers met at Atkinson Library to begin working on the Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest. I just wrote five essays for a writing fellowship, so I know how long and hard the essay-writing process can be. Most of the teens asked to write poems instead. Here's the crazy part. When the students showed me their poems—I saw the seeds of essays. "This is your starting point," I said. "Really?" they asked. Yes. Really.

I can't show you those poems—I'll save them for January, when the essays are published. Two students did write acrostic peace poems just for the blog. Two other students wrote their I AM poems as a way to introduce themselves to you.

Enjoy reading. (Then go write your own poems!)

by Davonn May

Achieving man who
Reunited people of all ages. He was a
Truthful man. He also was
Intelligent. He was
Never racist.

by Daquan May


by Andreya Jones

I am brown-eyes, dark caramel colored, long nailed, long haired.
I am smart, funny, goofy, sporty.
I am a cousin, sister daughter, niece.
I am Andreya Jones.

by Patrice

I am dark-eyed, caramel-skinned, beautiful faced, Indian girl.
I am funny, creative, intelligent, shy.
I am an auntie, a daughter, an animal lover, and a sophomore.
I am Patrice.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Writing in Autumn

Tonight we met some new Dream Keepers.  How fun! They are students at the Young Leaders Academy. They wrote I AM poems and Urban Haiku poems. One of our founding members was also present, working on a scholarship application. Sitting in a bright, big room in the library, looking out the window to take in the leaves—it was a perfect afternoon. Enjoy!

I Am
by Daquan May, age 10

I am tall, caramel, handsome, skinny.
I am smart, goofy, playful, me.
I am a gymnast.
I play basketball.
I jump around.
I read books.
I am a son, brother, worker, player.
I am 10-years-old. 
I am Daquan.

by Daquan May

In my pocket I have
a lot of green.
Money is not the most important.
part of me.

I Am
by Davonn May, age 13

I am tall, handsome, smart, funny.
I am dark chocolate.
I am fast.
I play basketball, football, baseball, and swim.
I am Davonn May.

I am a son, a brother, a cousin, an uncle.
I study. I do my work. I love school. I have good grades.
I go to church. I read the Bible. I am a son of God.
I am Davonn May.

by Davonn May

Leaves falling off the tree
Birds staring; looking at me.
The season changes, it gets cold
Back to the basic, the same old...

I Am 
by Tierra N. May, age 13

I am skinny, tall, chocolate, pretty.
I am funny, smart, goofy, me.
I am basketball player, runner, talker, bike rider.
I am daughter, sister, friend, kid.
I am Tierra N. May.

by Tierra N. May

Out of the seasons that change
leaves are beautiful
but all the same.

I Am
by Leroi May, age 12

I am short, funny, handsome, skinny.
I am funny, goofy, smart, me.
I am a basketball player, football player, runner, baseball player.
I am a brother, friend, kid.
I am Leroi May.

by Leroi May

Leaves turning different colors
Bird flying over me.
People staring; I'm jumping in the leaves.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall Writing Work

We've been meeting at the library since September. Some of our work has to do with self-discovery. The young people have written about difficult past events—trying to make meaning from them. Psychologist James Pennebaker links this work with increased happiness and wellness over time. That work was beautiful and private. The girls have also been writing about their future—either a vision of their best possible future selves or a list of the fifty to one-hundred things they want to do before they die. Psychologists also link visioning a good future in great detail to increased happiness. These exercises are harder for the young people to do. I'm not sure why. I need to ask them about that. 

Here's a collection of poems that come from our various meetings this fall. I always have an assignment, but often the teens just want to write whatever comes to mind. Their goal is always to make something that's raw—or cool. And they do it. Every single time. Enjoy!

by Elisha Branch

Want to know what's funny, how people say poor girl's sitting alone
You snap and wave your hands at her, like no one's home.
With her hands on her head like it is fire in her dome
What's really going on is the complete opposite of shalom.
There's things digging in her head like a needle in foam.
If you only knew the things she does when she's alone.
You just might want to leave that poor girl alone.

In My Box
by Natalie Branch

In my box, there is no room for outsiders.
In my box, there is a lot of misbehavior.
In my box, my mind is adrift.
Thinking up fantasies and outrageous myths.
In my box, there is a maze,
Leading to wonder, mystery, and craze.
In my box, time is endless,
Thinking up fun and things that are meaningless.
In my box, I am safe.
Nothing can hurt me, because everything is fake.
But I don't know that; everything feels so real.
Where I am, and the way I feel.
In my box is where I run to hide.
Somewhere safe, where I still have my pride
Maybe I'll leave my box one day.
But for right now, that day's far, far away.

Urban Haiku
Writing Haiku poems teaches writers to pay attention. My favorite book on Haiku is by Patricia Donegan (I'll paste in a link at the end of this post). She teaches that writers should think about a Haiku poem as one breath instead of 17 syllables. You'll notice that some of the poems follow the traditional 5-7-5 pattern and others attempt the one breath. I invited the girls to write from their experience of life in the city. This differentiates these poems from traditional Haiku poems, which include a nature or season word. The other thing to notice: the young people really got the element of surprise or twist at the end of each poem. Read and enjoy (and write your own).

Urban Haiku
by Deanna Branch

Dog's Bite
Children screaming!
The dog's grimy teeth
pierce through my skin.

Old Country Buffet
All you can eat sounds sweet!
Stuffing my face
Making a pig
out of me!

Takin' Zion to the Park
Zion hits the ground.
Head screaming.
Nose Bleeding.
We're leaving!

Walking through the Cemetery
Walking through the cemetery
Man peeing on grave!
Teens making out!
No respect!

Sunday School
Sunday school lesson
What we can/cannot control.
My actions I can control.
Other people's actions, I cannot,

Urban Haiku
by Natale Branch

I love to read books
books help lift you up when you're
feeling very sad.

The baby screams loud
The mother wakes up; still asleep
baby is now quiet.

School is getting hard
poor girl is very confused
Only he can help.

Zion is my boo
He can help me make it through
school, sadness, and life.

Zion is my son,
without him I would die; I
need him to survive.

My inspiration
is Zion. He inspires me
to do good things.

Sweet little boy came
Cheered little girl up that day.
Sometimes change is good.

Here is the book we used to learn how to write Haiku poems: