Friday, November 21, 2014

live from NCTE 14!

Oh, my--is it Friday already?! It's just as well that I didn't post earlier this morning, because what there is to write about is happening RIGHT NOW.  My first session was about the Newtown Poetry Project, a program that began in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012.  There was every reason in the world to offer families a way to respond through poetry, but I was fascinated to learn that the events themselves were not addressed in the Poetry Project.  Instead, the aim of the writer/teacher and the parent/poet/professor who initiated the program was just to share poetry lessons and invite writing. 

As the 6-week evening program progressed, the leaders realized that the children were responding to the invitation in joyful, spontaneous ways that the adults of their wounded community were finding difficult.  Their solution was to build collaboration into the lessons--collaboration between adults and children and among members of different families.  Here is one of the resulting "exquisite corpse" collaborative poems, from which the title of their first collection, In the Yellowy Green Phase of Spring, comes.

The Great Unknown || Newtown Poetry Project 2013

From here, I can see the world
We are in the yellowy green phase of spring
Birds fly in the sky a lot during spring
Some people like to write in a journal
I like to write about flying birds
My cat, the fluffiest cat in the world, purred softly on my lap
I saw the flag at the front of the room jerking like a chained bulldog
The umbrella flew open as the wind took it
I wish I could wake up with a few less unknowns

It was an excellent session all around, but my favorite idea was to do with how, so often, we approach poetry with a "field trip" mentality, as a one-off unit or author visit rather than as the ongoing, recursive, shared meaning-making that it was from our preliterate beginnings.  I love the idea that every community needs a structure in place for community poetry, whether in times of tragedy or in times of ordinary, glorious life.

You can read here about the second volume from the Project's Spring 2014 session--From the Plain White Table, and if you listen closely you'll hear the gears and engines of my mind revving up for the Rock View Poetry Project...

The Poetry Friday Roundup is with Becky today at Tapestry of Words.


  1. Heidi, the Newtown Poetry Project sounds amazing! I agree that poetry needs to be integrated more into the tapestry of our communities. Poetry IS all the time! Thank you so much for sharing about the project, and for your thought-provoking post!

  2. Heidi, it was wonderful meeting you in person at NCTE 14. I enjoyed reading your post and hearing about the project. Poetry is
    a great connector that allows emotions to pour. I would imagine that your workshop was well-received. If you go over to my post for Nov. 28th, you will see the photo of the Poetry Friday ladies at Laura and Amy's session.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!