Fire

Posted October 15, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

I am fire in the wind.
One little spark
can ignite the entire world. The air
crisp and smokey,
the fire big and beautiful.
I am that wildfire,
spreading like gossip in teen girls’ hands.
My ways of life are dangerous; I lunge from tree to tree,
It takes 1,000,000 people to slow down my fiery
reign of terror.
The outcome of my worldwide scare is poor.
I leave people with almost nothing to live on.
But with pain
comes beauty,
and I watch as friends and family, mountains and trees
gather together
to build the world up again.
I am not all bad
for my flames create opportunities
to get stronger, more powerful.
I can transform the weakest squirrel into the strongest lion.
When my destruction ends, I am exhausted.
I tell myself that my wildfire is a warning.
My silent, screaming
message: stay alert.
Another fire is coming.
I am the fire in the wind, ready to ignite.

by Irene, 5th grade

Minute Maid Park

Posted October 13, 2017 & filed under Event, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

Minute Maid

Saturday!

Five forty five  A.M.

Screaming, booming

Jose Altuve, Orbit, Carlos Correa

Play games, eat ice-cream

Two months!

Happy.

by Anthony,  2nd grade

ZOOM

Posted October 6, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem.

Love cries out with joy.

Infinity multiplies forever.

The Earth gets dizzy from spinning.

My friend loves me.

All of these ideas make my heart zoom!

 

by Isabelle, 1st grade

Houston

Posted September 22, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing, WITS People.

Summer melting

into Fall

a perfect morning

letting the wind

wash over you

on the porch.

Lime Ice

reminds you

that the sweaty

days are over.

You enter

the realm

of cool breezes.

Gleeful children

run through

the streets

laughing,

returning home

to dinner,

garden fresh.

 

by Lila, 5th grade

The Shelter of Imagination

Posted September 11, 2017 & filed under Notebook, WITS People.

Meggie with Armoney, age 6,
at George R. Brown Convention Center

Days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, WITS Program Manager, Meggie Monahan, volunteered at George R. Brown Convention Center, reading, writing, and playing with children who had been displaced by the storm and floodwaters. Meggie reflects on the power of imagination, the generosity of listening, and the resilience of children. Read an excerpt from “The Shelter of Imagination,” which originally aired on KPFT 90.1 FM’s “So, What’s Your Story?”.

When I was a child, our sticky Pennsylvania summers were filled with “make-believe” games. My siblings and I strung stage curtains out of old Sesame Street bed sheets. We wrote new & improved scripts for our favorite Disney movies, and we choreographed music videos for Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album. Then one summer, our parents got a new refrigerator. And in the weeks to follow, that huge empty box in the garage became pure and total magic. It was our special hideout: a dark and cool refuge from parents and chores, an escape from mosquitoes, and a ticket to a bigger world.

I haven’t thought about that refrigerator box in a long time. But last week at the George R Brown Convention Center, I recognized it from across the room as Davion and Abu led me by the hand to their special fort. We snaked our way through a sea of cots and blankets and belongings, and there was this beautiful empty box— a space that could be anything at all, anything they wanted it to be. There, smack-dab in the middle of noise and need and exhaustion and loss, these boys had chosen to stand on the shoreline of their imaginations and create a new, more hopeful world.

I came to Houston to study creative writing, and I stayed in Houston because of Writers in the Schools, an organization that believes in the life-saving power of the imagination. We believe that every child has a voice, that every voice is valuable and deserves to be heard— and that the act of sharing our stories is what makes us human, and what connects us to each other. When talking about WITS, I like to say that “wherever kids are, that’s where we want to be,” and that includes inside a cardboard box in the middle of the 4th largest city in the nation.

In the aftermath of Harvey, I’ve had the opportunity to sit with some of our city’s children at the GRB and the NRG and listen to their voices. And it has reminded me and affirmed in me two things: one, that kids are kids wherever they go. And two, that playfulness, imagination, and creativity are trustworthy tools for healing. Even after being displaced by a hurricane, kids want to sit in your lap and wear your sunglasses. They want to pretend to be tigers and practice their super hero moves with you, cover you in stickers, and braid your hair. Most of all, when they believe you are truly listening, kids want to talk. They are natural storytellers, and they want to tell you about their pets and their best friends and their dream vacations, and what they want to be when they grow up. And at WITS, our most important job is to listen— to really listen— and to celebrate and encourage and elevate children’s words at every level.

And that’s what I love about WITS: that we as a community of writers are committed to excavating and elevating the stories of our young people, and emboldening them to use their words to create a more just and beautiful world. And one day these kiddos— the Davions and Abus and Tianas and Bobbies and Anthonys and Nathans and Christiannas and Zias— all of these children are going to tell stories to their children about what happened when it rained for days and days they needed to leave their homes and live in a new and unfamiliar place. And it’s my hope that peppered within their stories and their families’ stories, there might be some small, treasured moments of play, lightness, and getting to be a kid, even in the midst of tragedy.

There is an Irish saying that “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live,” and I would expand upon that by saying, “It is in the stories of each other that the people live.” When we take the time to sit and listen to the story of another person, especially a child, they may not know where to start— but the act of listening is powerful and invites generosity and willingness in the speaker. And when children know they are being listened to, they can’t help but fill empty spaces— air and pages and cardboard boxes— with all kinds of magic. Their giggles bounce across poured concrete floors. Their litanies of favorite foods transform phrases like “shrimp with garlic butter” into prayerful syllables in a crowded convention hall. And their Red Ninja lava super powers are, somehow, enough to defeat the Blue Ninja’s endless waves of water.

WITS Student Writes Poem of Hope to the City of Houston

Posted August 30, 2017 & filed under News, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

This morning, we received a touching gift – a poem written by one of our Writers in the Schools (WITS) students, Eshaan.

Eshaan, a 6th grader, crafted this poem during the course of his family’s journey through Harvey, and offers it up to the city of Houston as a way of bringing everyone together with words of hope.

Starting this week, WITS is volunteering at shelters to help more of our young neighbors tell their stories, because storytelling is healing, and we are #houstonstrong.

Hurricane Harvey: A Terrifying Tempest

Daily gales gossip of terror,
And tornadoes clone as if in infinite mirrors,
God watches over us though,
And as the winds blow,
He oversees,
Cities turning into seas.

I feel helpless,
As I pray for victims’ wellness.
Distraught and crying,
Kin of victims sighing,
Why is Mother Nature so cruel?

One minute there is sunrise,
The next moment you hear cries,
Young babies,
Old ladies,
All trapped in this haplessness.

A second Noah’s Ark,
God tells us to hark!
Batten down the hatches,
And as He snaps trees like matches,
Remember we are all one.

As bombs explode,
And tears flow,
Those on cloud seven,
Come down from heaven.
As barrages fire,
All unite in this horrid quagmire.

As we come together,
We will remake Houston for the better.
Resurrection is impossible,
But together we make it possible.
Harvey left distraught in his wake,
Many a person who stay awake.
If we unite as one,
We can get rebuilding done.

Neighbors help neighbors,
And the common man labors.
The hand hardened from oaring,
Helpful souls soaring.
911 is overworked,
As residents do their tornado homework.

We must pray,
And not stray,
Stay calm and strong,
For I believe God will see us through this storm.

By Eshaan

Death

Posted August 5, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

Death is not

a tall figure dressed

in black.

It doesn’t have an intimidating

black cloak

or a skull for a face,

and it doesn’t bear a scythe to kill you.

We shouldn’t have to see Death as

this monster,

this scary,

violent,

ruthless

monster.

Maybe if we saw

Death

in a different light, not as a scary

entity, but as a small

but strong,

kitten

with dark–but not black–fur

and large, white, caring eyes,

we wouldn’t be so afraid

when Death crawls into our laps

to take us away.

 

by Cheyenne, 7th grade

The Warrior

Posted July 27, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

The fire beside her was freshly

Lit and crackling. He stood there,

Above her sleeping body,

Quiet and waiting,

Waiting for her to awake from her

Peaceful sleep. The last

Dose of sunlight shone

On her face. Before, he too,

Went to sleep for the night,

He stood there thinking,

Thinking of what chaos would come

After this silent morning.

“Why am I doing this?”

Unable to find the answer,

He stood there watching,

Watching her and waiting.

 

by Mary, 10th grade

Revision Strategy #3: Rubber Banding

Posted July 18, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Student Writing, WITS People.

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With younger children, this concrete activity called “Rubber Band Stretching” works well.  Demonstrate how a rubber band starts out small and can be stretched much larger.  Read a simple sentence out loud, and ask for suggestions about how to expand it.  After a student successfully stretches a sentence by adding new words, hand her a rubber band ball.  When a second student stretches the sentence further, the first student passes the ball to the second.  The game continues until it is impossible to stretch the sentence anymore!  Students then apply the lesson to a piece of their own writing.

With older students, the rubber band can be used to discuss sentence length in more complexity. Bring in a strong piece of writing that includes short, medium, and long sentences.  Discuss the various effects.  If you have a geo board, you can actually record or map out the sentences using rubber bands.  Show how the rhythm of a piece changes depending on sentence lengths.

As a spinoff activity, ask students to map out sentence lengths in advance.  Then, try to write a paragraph that fits, and notice how the paragraph sounds.  For older students, it is empowering to see how they can control the rhythm of their piece just through sentence length.

-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston

My Name

Posted June 23, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

My name is all the numbers because

I don’t have a favorite.

 

My name is silver because

it is shiny and is in Slytherin.

 

My name loves vegetarian cooking

that makes me hungry.

 

My name is the peaceful sound of the sea

and the sound of a stormy sea.

 

My name feels happy when I save

my money to take a trip.

 

My name means HUMANITY!

 

by Vishwa, age 6

#RethinkHighSchool: An Open Forum

Posted May 26, 2017 & filed under Notebook.

Empowering youth voices is at the core of our mission at WITS. That’s why we partnered with XQ America and Brave New Voices to bring the Rethink High School campaign to Houston, creating an open forum event where youth from across the city can voice their ideas of what high school can and should be, brainstorming with each other and sharing their viewpoints with local public officials and youth advocates—people with the power to make a difference.

The event kicked off with music from 97.9 The Box and a bold, challenging video from XQ America explaining the purpose of the Rethink High School campaign: to create a high school environment that makes students feel valued, challenged, instrumental in their own learning, and equipped to solve the problems facing their communities.

Houston Poet Laureate Deborah “D.E.E.P” Mouton and 97.9 The Box radio hosts KG Smooth and Keisha Nicole shared stories of their own high school experiences and served as moderators for the breakout sessions that followed. In the breakouts, students shared their answers to questions conceived of by members of WITS’ Youth Advisory Council. Students filled the posters with their ideas and voiced powerful insights on how social justice, mental health awareness, diversity & inclusion, and other pressing issues facing today’s youth could be better addressed by high schools.

The thought-provoking discussions were followed by poems performed by members of the Meta-Four Houston slam team and Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate, Fareena Arefeen. The poems delivered incisive critiques of our current education system. Between the lyrical messages of the young poets and the impassioned opinions shared by student attendees, the room pulsed with an eagerness to make the ideas expressed in the discussion sessions a reality.

The event’s key speakers and panelists included a wide array of stakeholders–Houston City Council member Karla Cisneros; Lisa Felske of the Harris County Department of Education; Douglas Torres-Edwards of the HISD Arts Access Initiative; OCA Co-Facilitator and president of the Education Rainbow Challenge, Cecil Fong; Mark Cueva of the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods; and the Assistant Director of University of Houston’s Creative Writing program, Giuseppe Taurino. Asked to share their hopes for educational reform and innovation, ideas flowed easily, from Councilmember Cisneros’ call for job opportunities for students still in high school to Douglas Torres-Edwards’ proposition that the students without great grades or perfect attendance should be placed at the center, not pushed to the margins and left to slip through the cracks.

The panelists then fielded questions from students about how they could put their ideas into action, leading to more empowering answers. Mark Cueva and Giuseppe Taurino encouraged the students in attendance to be the ones to speak up and inspire others in the process. Cecil Fong issued a challenge to push beyond the built-in diversity of Houston and make an active effort to befriend people outside of their own social groupings. Lisa Felske reminded the students that although they weren’t yet old enough to vote, they could still make their voices heard by attending city council and school board meetings.

As the program drew to a close, event emcee and WITS/Youth Speaks Future Corps Fellow Monica Davidson issued a call to action to the students. “These conversations we’ve had have been incredible. They’ve been inspiring. But they can’t stay inside the walls of this community center! You have to take them with you, share them with your friends, bring them into the outside world.”

The Young Writers Reading at The Menil Collection

Posted May 19, 2017 & filed under Notebook.

Each year, The Menil Collection opens its doors to dozens of WITS classrooms, giving students the opportunity to see an extraordinary collection of visual art that heightens the senses and stretches the imagination.

As students take a tour of the museum’s collections, they write poems and stories inspired by the art they see, making connections between sight and sound, image and story. Last night at the Young Writers Reading we had the privilege of hearing and picturing what they created.

Menil Assistant Director of Public Programs, Theodore Bale, thanked everyone for attending the special evening and reminded all that the museum is free and open for the public to enjoy.

WITS Executive Director, Robin Reagler, shared a story about her childhood, when she would stare at the pictures in her books and imagine the colors and animals coming to life. That creative moment is the basis for the Menil project, where students examine art until it tells its secrets to them. They write those secrets down in their original poems and stories.

Robin also shared that when she first started at WITS, Ms. Dominque de Menil made a point to attend the Young Writers Reading every year in her wheelchair, because the powerful poems and stories the children were writing helped inform her sense of what the art was really about, and in that sense, what was happening in the world. Robin then thanked the students for “schooling us” on “what is happening in our world” with their visions of the paintings.

The emcee for the night, Houston Poet Laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, shared her love of creative writing and teaching with the crowd, and introduced each student. It was a truly amazing night. We look forward to next year!

WITS writers Erika Jo Brown and Andrew Karnavas with student Kloe, who read a poem about her experience with radiation.

From left to right: WITS writer Abigail Drozek-Fitzwater, Houston Poet Laureate, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, WITS writer Gloria Alvarez, and WITS Executive Director, Robin Reagler.

Thank you to our major funders: The Menil Collection, The Houston Endowment, Youth Speaks, The Brown Foundation, The Simmons Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Copy.com, the Texas Commission on the Arts, The Farish Fund, The Clayton Fund, The Powell Foundation, and The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

The Birth of Color

Posted April 28, 2017 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

 

The beautiful sunset
making shades
of blue,
green,
red,
pink,
yellow,
and orange,
eyes of the wandering beings
opening,
looking,
watching
from their windows,
the golden yellow tree,
the sunset lake,
children playing,
bluebirds chirping,
the blue leaves,
dark green haunting shadows,
a red horse,
people hard at work,
a bright sunny day,
trees reaching up to grow,
mothers making supper for their children,
and a door opening,
telling people to come.
This is the birth of color.

by Kirby, 3rd grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 Addison, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Sweet” by 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 KTR

 

Original post: October 11, 2016

Library Music

Posted April 27, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

 

This library music,

With the always-noise of

Strangers coughing

People falling in love

Smooching around the corner

Librarian shushing my crying cousin

 

Vocabulary of

Cough       Who         Kiss         Shhhhh…..

Language combinations,

Beauty to my ears

With the always-music of

Pages turning over and over,

Books falling from the shelves,

People’s laughter

 

The always-noise of library music.

 

by Alyiah, 4th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 Tory, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Molten Snow” by Jesse Spillane, 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.

How to Paint a Moody Sea

Posted April 26, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

First paint wind,

the kind that creates the shimmering waves.

Add the glow of the sleeping sun.

Next, place your canvas

in the sand

in a tide pool

or where the clams build the shells.

Paint without thinking

or moving and wait

for the sun’s expression to turn

soft and light.

Then draw the shadowy ships

whispering their long-gone knowledge

to the fish in the sea,

the sand,

the men gathering crabs.

When the seagull caw-caws,

take a squid and scare it.

The ink will burst.

With this, sign your name

in the ocean,

hoping it won’t go down

to the sunken ship taking souls.

 

by Katie, 5th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 Mackenzie, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Sailor’s Lament” by Jason Shaw, 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

One

Posted April 25, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

One

lonely

daisy

drinking

from

its

straws,

eating

fresh

sunlight

after

the storm.

 

by Paloma, 2nd grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 Audrey, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Rain Stops Play” by Ketsa. 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

Be Brave

Posted April 24, 2017 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

Be brave.

You will find your way using long strides.

You will fill your cracks with gold.

Swallow darkness like lemonade

and savor its twisted flavor.

Scramble into the unknown.

You can’t help but smile.

Your heart will beat

its fractured tune and one

speck of dust will fall from

your tattered suitcase of regrets.

You are broken like the old

clock in the corner of the

home you used to love.

But that’s okay.

You will cartwheel down the sidewalk

leading away from the city.

And you will smile.

 

by Pearl, 6th grade

 

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on Sunny 99.1KPFT 90.1, and KTRU 96.1 Donald, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Broken (is everyone here)” by Ketsa. 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