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Greeting Spring with Poetry

In honor of National Poetry Month, two UPrep teachers talk about poetry and share student work.

Two UPrep English teachers share their thoughts on poetry and poems written by students

The largest literary celebration in the world takes place every April: National Poetry Month. In UPrep English Teacher Kim Gonzales’ opinion, April is the perfect time of year for this designation.

“We are just coming out of winter and are feeling open to nature, to each other, to new possibilities, and hope for the future. It’s a wonderful time to pause, breathe, and reflect: all things that poetry asks us to do when we have the time and head space to read it carefully,” she says. “This year in particular, National Poetry Month is helping me feel more centered and connected. Sharing poetry with my students and reading or hearing their thoughts on these pieces gives me life!”

Fellow English Teacher Angie Yuan adds that poet W.H. Auden said that “poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings,” and that it’s always good to check in with your mixed feelings. “I love how language can take you on journeys and leave you in unexpected places. And I love seeing students experience that,” she says.

This semester, students in Angie’s Immigrant Stories course are writing poetry, while Kim is teaching Poetry, an Upper School elective where students mainly read, discuss, and write about a wide range of published poems. Throughout the Poetry course, students write parallel poems based on selected texts they study as a group. Kim hopes her students find a special connection to at least one poem or poet this term that they can return to again and again over the years.

“Poetry is for EVERYONE. Anyone can write a poem, and anyone can read and connect with poetry,” says Kim. “That doesn’t mean poetry is easy or simple, but I do feel that it is an extremely accessible, almost democratic art form. A poem forces us to think and makes us look more closely. The economy of this form emphasizes care and intentionality, qualities to strive for in many aspects of our lives.”

To celebrate National Poetry Month, here are a few poems students in the Immigrant Stories and Poetry courses wrote this semester.

The Heart Does Not Know

Home is where the heart is.

He becomes used to this untamed place.

In his mind, a broken idea of home,

from trickle to tsunami.

He becomes used to this untamed place. 

A new life free of past influences,

but home will always wait.

–Josh H., 12th grade 

 

Migration Dreams*

It is almost sublime in a way--

I wonder how many are lost each year.

Both real and imagined, the confusion

where loss is imaginary. Despite 

his hardships, in the end he feels generosity,

the pure joy shown as Paris leaps into his arms--

he knows he’s a father. Tragedy is when 

you have so many dreams, dreams to fly, but not the means to achieve them,

the power that wants to make a life for your family or future 

pushing you to risk your life for a chance.

In the end that’s just how it works,

to capture something horrible on their phones.

The fall is his “golden hour” … right before the sun sets on his life.

From this perspective, reality is twisted in a way.

I like the line “we may know who arrives, but we’ll never know

exactly how many didn’t make it out of the sea.”

He saw an airplane cut across the clear blue sky.

–Immigrant Stories class, Block 1

*Collage poem with each student contributing a line

 

The Day I Learned ‘Death’*

It is 1:16 in Bellingham, a sunny day

one day after my mom’s father died, yes

my Grandpa, (his name was Gregg)

Our car pulled up the gravel driveway 

my eyes were swollen from the two hour drive

because my face was pressed against the warm window.

 

I skipped on the stone path up to the front door

while my mom trailed slowly behind me. 

It was blue, not a bright blue, a faded and cracked blue

It was grey, even more so when we walked inside. 

Everything was in boxes, stowed away. 

His books in stacks on the floor and cabinets empty.

I slipped off my brown dirty low top converse and pushed them aside with my foot. 

Then walked over and sat on the leathery BLACK CHAIR, dedicated strictly to his SUNDAY FOOTBALL addiction, but we both knew it was my chair.

Though as I sunk into the chair, 

I realized the room was different.

It was quieter, colder, it felt bigger.

I never quite understood death until that moment

That he really was gone, and slowly his stuff was being taken away too, his bobbleheads, his figurines, that TALKING FISH that used to be displayed above the mantle. 

and I smelled him, pungent in the air,

soaked into the carpet and the walls

Like he was standing right next to me.

Together we watched as my mom aimlessly searched for an answer

in the framed PICTURES on the coffee table,

like the memories could bring him back to life. 

 

and I felt guilt, because I never knew him like she did

because i had not yet learned empathy

my heart sunk in with me in that old leathery BLACK CHAIR.

Because what I did realize is that’s how life goes

you live and you die, and after a while its like 

you were never there to begin with.

–Alexa L., 12th grade

*Inspired by Frank O’Hara’s poem “The Day Lady Died

 

The Family Visit* 

Innocence!

You know that bumper sticker on the back of vans?

The one with the happy family holding hands.

I begged my Parents to get one the other day.

They ignored me for hours, then shoved me away.

The sadness and temper consumed me inside.

But I shrugged them away and told them to hide.

“The weekends” I said, are not far ahead.

So wait until then, to be with your Friends.

The weekends are here, they finally came.

I rejoice with my Cousins and eat candy canes.

Christmas and happiness, we’re together at last.

I really hope break won’t speed by too fast.

Each day, the laughter carries into the night.

Oh my Family is lovely, they’re such a delight!

Water fights, games, and Aunty’s yummy cooking,

PG-13 movies, and the adults overlooking.

Sadly, however, the fun must come to a close.

But if Grandma votes stay, then what she says goes.

The laughter continues just one more time.

But unfortunately, this is the end of the rhyme.

The tears roll down, and “until next time” we say,

Because after all, there's always mid-winter break.

 

experience.

the car ride was dreadful

my knees pressed against the door

puffy face hidden in my right shoulder

me and that family, magnets of the same charge.

My own personal repellant. great.

 

their foreign driveway was now in view

younger siblings jolt out of the car

irritating screeches of joy surround me

I drag my way out pissed . 

Ugh.

 

a knock on the front door was all it took

for the insufferable excitement to instantly worsen

we walk in and I avoid the cheers and the eye contacts

I slip my shoes off and look for an escape.

Shoot. they caught me. 

 

a “hello” is all I am able to muster

the awkwardness and hatred consume me

the vacant living room next door

is all every inch of me could think of.

Leave me alone already.

 

hours straggle by, 

hours of intentional isolation

regularly, I’d hear my name

and regularly, the poor thing’s insulted.

But the roaring laughter provokes me.

 

it’s time to eat now

oh no it’s time to eat

I creep over and, “there she is” comments 

explode throughout the kitchen.

I can’t stand these imposters.

 

I drool over the delicious assortment of food

finally, an authentic smile

I attempt to feed my insatiable hunger 

but within seconds, the food

Is stolen and kept away. Air, meet my stomach.

 

my mother’s brother stole her money last Sunday

now here they are, laughing

just laughing

but wait, is this what a family is?

I guess so.

 

this answer makes me internally explode

these people who live only minutes away

 

but only see a couple times each year

is my family?

Well then, here’s to next time.

– Jamila A., 11th grade

*Parallel poems inspired by reading selections from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience

By Writer/Editor Nancy Schatz Alton

 



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