Each one a gift

no doubt about it.

A wonderful, mythical

day without ice cream.

Today, cold and bright

a cool breeze in the sky

without a fall of rain.

Through the calm eye

of a window, charming

look in the glowing mirror,

you find yourself in trouble.

A friend helps you out.

You whisper about great days

without mentioning the bad ones.

 

by Mohammed, 5th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Katherine, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Another Day” by Ketsa, Freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

Original post: June 5th, 2016

Yo soy una playa. Al llegar las personas, me siento acompañada.

Mis manos parecen la arena.

Salgo a sentarme sola, sin paz,

con el sol como el fuego que quema.

Oigo el “Ja, ja, ja” de las personas felices y con alegría

que me hace recordar los chistes de mi tío.

El mar de lágrimas refleja las tristezas de mi vida.

Hoy es un día radiante y estoy pensando en ir a soñar al paraíso.

Veo un océano semejante a una taza de sal,

las personas iguales a las rosas rojas,

dos cangrejos como si fueran monstruos intimidantes.

Un pájaro se mueve cantando dulcemente.

Me alegro y descubro que el mundo me hace sentir en el cielo

con flores coloridas y una vida gozosa.

Es bueno vivir llena de ternura.

 

(Translation)

 

I am a beach. When people come, I don’t feel lonely.

My hands look like sand.

I sit down alone, without peace,

with the sun like burning fire.

I hear the “ha, ha, ha” of joyful people, with a happiness

that makes me remember my uncle’s jokes.

The sea of tears reflects the sadnesses of my life.

Today is a radiant day, and I am thinking of going to dream in paradise.

I see an ocean similar to a cup of salt,

people equal to red roses,

two crabs as if they were intimidating monsters.

A bird moves, singing pleasantly.

I cheer up and discover that the world makes me feel as if in heaven,

with colorful flowers and a vibrant life.

It is good to live, filled with tenderness.

 

by Arleth, 4th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Jackson, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Vague d’Oubli” by CyborgJeff, ccMixter.com. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

This #NationalPoetryMonth, poetry is growing in all kinds of unexpected places, including Houston H-E-B locations in Montrose, San Felipe, Buffalo Speedway, and Bunker Hill. 🌷

These poems, written by young WITS students, remind us to honor and celebrate the everyday gifts of our given world. The next time you’re shopping there during the month of April, go on a scavenger hunt with the family and see if you can find them all!

If you’re at H-E-B San Felipe, check out the “poet-tree,” where you can add your own verse to the tree. This is a DIY version of the poet-trees over at Eleanor Tinsley Park at Buffalo Bayou, created in partnership with artist Nicola Parente and The Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Big thanks to Meagan, Community Coordinator at San Felipe for the DIY poet-tree. It looks great!

Thank you for your in-kind support Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, and Copy.com. And thank you to H-E-B for finding a home for these poems. We couldn’t this without you!! #houston #poetry #grocerypoems

The stone-cold look she gives you

Makes you want to run and hide.

You cower in her shadow,

Waiting for her to decide.

Her mind expands farther than the universe.

She practically glows with power.

Her rage fills you with fear

As you squirm and shift in place.

She looks you in the eye, deciphering true and false

While your tongue is seething with lies

Overflowing like a full cup of gray coffee.

 

by Isabella, 5th grade

 

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Adam, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Fragilistic” by Ketsa, Freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

I am the metal wall that will always protect you from danger.

I am the night yard owl that looks after you in the night.

Your face is the fresh breeze that brings people happiness.

You will never fear ’cause I’m here for you.

If you fall, I will be your pillow.

If you’re hurt, I will be your Band-aid.

If you want to fly, I’ll be your wings.

If you want to run, I’ll be your road.

I love you so much that I will do anything as long as you’re safe.

I will always be by your side.

 

by Katherin, 4th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Adam, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Acoustic Breeze” Bensound.com. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

To the Future Me:

I have important questions stored.

Did you ever give up on proving your worth?

Are you still that joke to people

Or the wise one that’s finally happy?

The curiosity is really killing me.

Will we ever find happiness?

Ever feel that feeling—

the unspeakable feeling

of love?

 

by Imani, 8th grade

 

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Fareena, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Future Life” by Ketsa, freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

 

Original post: May 10, 2016

 

I am the core of a red apple

I am the hawk with its eyes so bright

I am a sapling ready to grow

I am the darkest shadow

I am the scroll that will guide you

I am honey that flows on your pancakes

I am the drone whom you control

I am the sadness that brings you joy

I am the medicine that clears your throat

I am the love that flows through your heart

I am the person who will heal your sadness

I stand in your heart until the end

I will guide you on your journey to Mount Everest

 

by Vincent, 3rd grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Mackenzie, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Journey Near Complete” by Ketsa. Freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

When sadness comes to you

as an aqua mermaid

you must put her in your bathtub.

Give her homemade stew

but don’t add jalapeno—

she will mourn over spice.

Ah! Dessert for her, of course.

Lemon cake with rainbow sprinkles!

Oh, that would make her day!

Then give her your bed,

and sleep on the couch.

Oh, I almost forgot!

She likes eggs and bacon

for breakfast.

 

by Mirabelle, 3rd grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Tori, WITS Youth Advisory Council Member. The background music is “Sea Change”  by Airtone. Jamendo.com. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

My mother tells me that I was born outside of the eye of a hurricane,
where the storm is strong and moves in radials;
a series of low-pressure systems and winds that carry bayous.

My ninth birthday was suspended in the space between cyclone and silence.
I watched my city build itself up again after Hurricane Ike and
I think we were both having growing pains.

I’ve learned that my purpose is flooding.
I want to form inundations of words and earn
the title of a Category Four. Drought reliever and filler of bayou banks.

Hurricanes bring heat energy from the tropics
the way I would like to bring light to the city that taught me
how to hold rainwater in the form of letters.
///

I only came into my skin
after I grew into this city and both happened like storm clouds;
rolling in and all at once.

Brown is my favorite color,
I can finally see the whirlpools that rest in my skin and in flood water.
And I’ve learned to love the greens hidden in browns hidden in labyrinths of color.

I find impressions of myself in silt.
There are maps of this city pressed into my hands
like footsteps on wet ground.
///

My favorite smell is rain falling on concrete
like cumin pouring onto my mom’s cooking that she learned from her mother.
I can be a drop of water falling in multiple places.

I am sewn to the city I’ve learned to call my own
like humidity on a body that can finally
hold its own storm.

By Fareena Arefeen, Houston Youth Poet Laureate, 11th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Fareena Arefeen, Houston Youth Poet Laureate. The background music is “Hurricanes” by Jose Manuel Gonzalez Nunez. Freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

Gleaming in the sunlight,
wicked green,
rocks like a boat when sliced.

Slice it!

Now it looks like the Grinch,
smells like a Warhead.

Juicy.
Eat it if you dare.
It will give you a sour face.
Delicious for me, but
for you, maybe not.

Transparent like a window.
If I hide behind it, you
will still see me.

Slices like pizza,
but not as rich and tasty.

You made a sour face.
Admit it.

Use a wedge for a mustache-
you’ll look like Abe Lincoln.

by Hanno, 3rd grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Adam, WITS Youth Advisory Council Member. The background music is “Citron” by Wallahi ccMixter.com. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

 

 

Congrats to the top 6 young performance poets who made the Meta-Four Houston team and will go on to represent Houston at the international youth slam competition, Brave New Voices, in San Francisco in July:

Jackson N. – Austin High School
Donald V. – Sharpstown High School
Ashlyn S. – Humble High School
Sebastian K. – Heights High School
Adam M. – Humble High School
Jordan R. – Cypress Lakes High School

Special thanks to our supporters: the Travelers Foundation (Travelers Insurance), the charitable arm of Travelers, and KBXX 97.9 The Box.

Thank you to our guests for their support and dedication: Ashley Turner, First Daughter Of The City Of Houston, Dr. Antonio Tillis, Dean of the University of Houston‘s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Keisha Nicole and KG Smooth of KBXX 97.9 The Box, Anne Sung, Houston Independent School District board member and VP of Project Grad, Rick Hess, WITS board member, Brian Cheadle of the Travelers Foundation, and so many more.

 

A poem is like a volcano trying to erupt.
A story is like a wild unknown animal, yet to be discovered.
A play is like a crazy zombie apocalypse.
Because zombies are dumb and funny, wearing crazy hats.
When I write, I feel like a maze that has a-maze-ing ideas.
When I write, I feel like a hero fighting for the weak and making them believe.

by Miguel, 4th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 by Mackenzie, WITS Youth Advisory Council Member. The background music is “Tough Guy” by Akashic Records. Produced by Susan Phillips.

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, Copy.com, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, KPFT 90.1, Sunny 99.1, and KTRU 96.1.

Original post: June 27, 2016

 

April is National Poetry Month, and to say we’re excited is an understatement.

This year’s celebration is bigger and better than ever.

Not only are students, teachers, librarians, bloggers, and poets around the country highlighting the powerful legacy of verse, but WITS is providing 3 amazing ways you can get involved.

#1 Visit the Poet-trees at Buffalo Bayou

Poet-trees are back! WITS has partnered with artist Nicola Parente and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to transform Houston trees into “poet-trees” at Eleanor Tinsley Park (near Allen Parkway). Visitors can write poems, quotes, and wishes on tags and hang them on the trees for others to read. You can also snap a pic of your poem on the tree and post it to social media using the hashtag #poettree.

Want to create your own poet-tree? Learn how to DIY a poet-tree over on our site!

#2 Get a Poem A Day in Your Inbox

Wish you had more poetry in your life? Sign up for our blog and you’ll receive a Poem A Day written by a talented WITS student each weekday for the entire month of April.

Be on the lookout for those same poems airing live on Sunny 99.1 at 7:20 a.m., KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1.

Yes! I want a Poem a Day >>

#3 Find WITS Poems at H-E-B!

Be sure to check out H-E-B Montrose, San Felipe, Buffalo Speedway, and Bunker Hill throughout the month of April for delicious food-themed poems written by young WITS writers.

Plus – share your poems with us!

Write a poem, take a pic of your poem, and upload it to Instagram with the tag #witspics. We’ll “pick” our favorite “pics” and share them on our Instagram page for all to see. Whether you’ve always wanted to write a poem or you’ve dabbled in the past, we want to see what you’ve got!

Poem a Day is made possible in part by H-E-B, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Copy.com, the Texas Commission on the Arts, Sunny 99.1, KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1.

 

 

Check out our amazing line-up for the Space City Poetry Slam Series – The Grand Slam at George R. Brown Convention Center 2nd floor C North Balcony located between Mezzanines B and C, this Sunday, April 2nd at 3 p.m with KBXX 97.9 The Box. You won’t want to miss these incredible young poets change your life with their powerful words.

The 6 final winners will become Meta-Four Houston and represent Houston at Brave New Voices. Special guests will include Ashley Turner, First Daughter Of The City Of Houston; Anne Sung, HISD board member; Rick Hess, WITS Board member; DJ Keisha Nicole of 97.9 The Box; and Dr. Antonio Tillis, Dean of the University of Houston‘s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Photo by Pin Lim.

The Space City Grand Slam is supported by a grant awarded by the Travelers Foundation (Travelers Insurance) the charitable arm of Travelers. We thank them for supporting these young leaders!

Be sure to check out Meta-four Houston’s interview with Houstonia Magazine here and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for live event updates!

On the occasion of National Puppy Day, we thought we’d republish a letter from our Executive Director, Robin Reagler, celebrating all that we love and learn from our pets. It was originally published in the WITS newsletter, A New Leaf, in 2001.

My dog Jake is not a great writer, and yet he has managed to teach me a few important things about how to live my life.

Jake is a foundling. I found him in June on a Sunday afternoon. People were playing baseball in the park. He’d been hit by a car and was limping. He followed me for miles. Maybe I am the foundling. He did find me, in a sense. I was chosen.

That week I was sitting in a 3rd grade classroom in our summer camp. They were sharing news of the day and practicing description. I described (poorly, so as to receive some student assistance) my new puppy.

The next day I received a note from a student in that group, Chelsea, who wrote, “Dear Ms. Robin, Take good care of your puppy.” I have tried my utmost.

As a steadfast puppy observer (severely biased by parenthood) I have abstracted a few wisdoms that I suspect to be the guiding principles of Jake. But first, let me provide a few vital statistics:

Name: Jake

Memorable features: polka dot eyebrows, floppy right ear flops, missing the right hind leg

Age: almost 3

Likes: peanut butter, bones, people food, treats, running like wind, swimming in the bayou, assisting in household chores as the sous chef in the kitchen, jr. gardener in the yard, laundry boy, etc.

Dislikes: taking a bath, his sister Moriah the cat

Nicknames by loved ones: Jacob, J-Chamber, Glow dog, Poco, Poky, Pokemon, Jakomon

Nicknames by strangers: Tripod, Troika, Lucky, Hopalong

And now, Life according to Jake:

  • If you don’t know what something is, smell it. If you still aren’t sure, taste it.
  • When you want something, but someone else has it, ask for it. If that doesn’t work, beg. If THAT doesn’t work, do some tricks.
  • When someone makes you nervous, keep moving. When you have a good feeling about someone, strike up a friendly conversation. If they ignore you, keep moving.
  • Every decision is an everyday decision. If you make a mistake, keep moving.
  • If your people are sick, give them a kiss and stick close by for a while.
  • Joy is everywhere. It is not hiding. It is ours for the taking.

So by the grace of a dog, I keep my eyes and ears open. I try to pay attention to the wonders on either side of my path. The classroom is everywhere.

All my best,

Robin

Are you a 6th, 7th, or 8th grader with a love of words? Sign up now for a free performance poetry workshop with WITS writer Jasminne Mendez at Lone Star College – Kingwood during the Bayou City Book Festival.

In this workshop, you’ll learn about the writing and performance process, exploring revision, stage presence, and poetry slam methods/appreciation. Spots are filling fast, so register here today!

When?

April 8, 2017 from 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Where?

Lone Star College – Kingwood

20000 Kingwood Drive Houston, TX 77339, Performing Arts Building Rm. 125

Learn more about the Bayou City Book Festival here.

 

About Jasminne

Jasminne Mendez is an award-winning author, performance poet, and educator. She received her B.A. in English Literature and her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. Mendez has performed her poetry in venues all around Houston, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Rice University, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Barnes & Noble, and the Alley Theatre. She has shared the stage with respected writers and poets, notably, Sandra Cisneros and Taylor Mali. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally, and her first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams was published by Floricanto Press in November of 2013 and was awarded Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards in 2015.

Do you know a teen between the ages of 13-19 who wants to be a published writer?

Check out Word on the Street / La Voz de Los Jovenes: a new online magazine of writing and the arts, created by the youth, for youth. Created, visioned, and led by a core squad of youth of color, this magazine is open to all youth and is bilingual.

Submissions can be in English or Spanish, and are completely free.

This opportunity is housed by the Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community. Thank you, Janet Hurley, for sharing!

Spring is in the air and so is our new performance workshop for youth ages 13-19! Starting today, we’re hosting a FREE workshop and open mic every first Friday of the month at the new Levy Park Conservancy. Join us from 7 – 8:30 p.m. No registration is required, and walk-ins are welcome. Learn more here.

Want updates on WITS events near you? Check out our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Congrats to our WITS Digital students from Kashmere High School! Earlier this month, they competed at the HISD Together with Tech conference alongside 44 other student teams.

The conference was created by HISD to explore the impact that technology has made in the classroom, specifically through their initiative, PowerUp, which brought a laptop to every student in the district. Students presented a variety of projects, including digital animation, mobile app design, and more.

As finalists, our WITS Digital students were selected to share their project with Microsoft and take a private tour of the office in celebration of Digital Learning Day.

WITS Digital is an initiative held in partnership with Histrionix Learning Company. The innovative program combines writing and game-based technologies, bridging the process of writing with that of game design. Through game play, students become creators versus consumers of media, using their writing as the foundation for design as a new method of publication.

Watch a video about the event over at the HISD blog.

Learn more about the Together with Tech conference here.

Each year, the WITS Alliance heads to a different city to attend the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) #AWP17 conference, a gathering of around 12,000 professionals. The conference provides an opportunity for writers to find support, discover resources, and build community.

The WITS Alliance has a strong presence at the conference. Whether it’s a quick morning meet-up with WITS leadership from all over the country, a booth filled with info for writers looking for jobs, or panels exploring such topics as video games in the classroom, women leaders, and creative writing as public art, WITS is there, strengthening its relationship with writers across the nation.

Here are a few highlights from the trip!

Associate Director, Jack McBride visited United States Senator Cornyn’s office with a message about how the arts are vital to business and education in Texas.

Jack McBride, Rick Brennan, Kelly Whitney, and Virginia McErneny chatted about how digital technology can transform the classroom and inspire even the most reluctant young learners to write.

Mahogany L Browne, Lori Pourier, Meggie Monahan, Jen Benka, and Amy King shared their experiences as women leaders in today’s world.

Kate Brennan, David Hassler, Alice Quinn, and Steve Young talked about how our communities can turn poetry into public art in public spaces.

Lauren Bullock, Michele Kotler, Ramiza Koya, and Giuseppe Taurino discussed how we can build more opportunities and systems that fuel diverse leaders.

Jasminne Mendez, Peter Mountford, Nina Swamidoss McConigley, and Glenn Shaheen, all former WITS writers, shared a piece from a WITS kid that inspired them, as well as some of their own work.

Alicia Craven, Stephanie Brown, Sunshine Ison and Mohamed Sheriff talked about how writers can leverage their skills in “From MFA to JOB: Making a Living, Making a Difference.”

One major highlight of the trip was the AWP gala, which featured words by renowned writers Jackie Woodson and Rita Dove. Here’s a quick selfie with our Executive Director, Robin Reagler, her childhood friend Sonya Gray, and Jackie Woodson.

Robin also gave a speech at the gala, sharing her thoughts on why gathering together as writers is important for sustaining a strong community of literary citizens.

Our WITS booth, where we talk with new writers and educators about the WITS Alliance, was filled with sweet swag to giveaway, like these dual writing/art notebooks.

The booth was a popular space! Here are WITS Alliance members, Amy Risher and Michele Kotler, as well as WITS Writer, Jonathan Meyer, chatting us up.

Cultivating relationships with writers at AWP is essential to ensuring that we continue to place writers in the classroom and work toward our mission of giving every child the opportunity to read and write. Until next year!