Hope for the World (Inspired by a Mark Rothko Painting)

Posted December 6, 2019 & filed under mentor text, Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

 

 

Anger, what has our world become?

Pollution, smoking, and all sorts of bad

Things. What has our world become?

As Earth orbits the sun, as more time

Passes, anger conquers our

World. What has our world become?

Look at our oceans. There’s trash

As far as the eye can

See. What has our world become?

You hear sounds of anger

All around. Even you have felt the

Pain. What has our world become?

But do you see that white line?

That is hope. Hope for our world.

So, as you look around, ask yourself,

“What can I do to help this world

To conquer anger, as it did conquer us?”

 

By Sophie, 4th grade

Open Mic for Galena Park’s Creative Teens on 12/13

Posted & filed under Event, free Houston event, Notebook.

 

For young writers, creators, rappers, and poets of Galena Park, we have an open mic for you. Join host Monica Davidson for an afternoon of truth and big moods. A writing workshop will be followed by an open mic. For more information, visit the WITS facebook page.

What: Youth Workshop & Open Mic

Who: Young writers (ages 11-18)

Where: Galena Park Branch Library,1500 Keene St, Galena Park, Texas 77547

When: Friday, December 13th, 4-6 pm

Cost: Free

 

Meet the Bayouth Collective: young people making a splash in the world of poetry

Posted October 3, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

Rain Poems: A Bayouth Collective Project

By: Jackson Neal

 

The National Endowment for the Arts found in 2017 that poetry readership among 18-24-year-olds has more than doubled since 2013, jumping from 8.2% to 17.5%. This makes young adults the largest group of poetry readers in the United States. Young people aren’t just reading poetry though. We’re writing it, and organizing spaces for poetry and arts to exist. Three young storytellers, Joyane Eriom, Mackenzie Cook, and I make up this year’s Bayouth Collective, a program of Writers In The Schools that equips young people with the tools to make space for other young writers in their communities. Through workshops, open mics, public art installations, zine-making, performances, and interviews, the three of us spent a year carving out places for other young storytellers in Houston to thrive. 

 

Being poets, it’s easy for us to get lost in the world of text. Academic language, institutions, and public education can make poetry a difficult medium to approach, and can keep the community as a whole out of its realm. Joyane, Mackenzie and I talked about this at length in one of our Bayouth Collective meetings. We were thinking about how poems can exist in the “real” world, in Houston. What does it mean to be a poet anyway? Our vibrant people, our loved ones and community, the way we play in the sun- these things feel like poetry too. They should be honored and celebrated just like any other art. 

 

These were the ideas behind rain poems. The Bayouth Collective’s first public installation, rain poems was a series of poems painted on the sidewalks of Buffalo Bayou Park with invisible ink. The only way to see the poems was to splash them with water. What we loved about this project was that it was meant for all Houstonians. Poetry was no longer a secluded medium harbored by gatekeeping institutions but became a facet of the city’s geography. The poems we installed were a part of the ground as if they bubbled up from the soil. The secret ink feature was just another fun way to see people physically play with a poem. I think that’s what makes the Bayouth Collective so great, our ability to play. In poems and in projects we find a way to take the materials we’re handed and make something joyous. 

 

‘rain poems’ is a Writers in the Schools and  Buffalo Bayou Partnership project. 

 

Poetry Reading List by Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate

Posted May 2, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate Jackson Neal shares a list of poetry reads to celebrate poetry year-round. From new releases to classics, here are some recommendations, hand-picked with descriptions from Jackson.

 

Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Nguyen writes about grief and loss with such trembling brilliance. This work does not expel the ghosts, but invites them to gather in the room. “Sound itself can be a form of violence” she writes. This book does not shy away from the violence, but invites us to listen carefully, “it passes through walls it pierces but does not touch”. Reading this work, my own ghosts pass through me, and I wanted to hold on to them.

 

Some Say the Lark by Jennifer Chang

“I would better understand the beast I am” writes Chang in her most recent collection.  The intricacies of geography are unearthed in poems that carry lush and bright ecosystems. “You are a twilight / and a twilight bird,” the poet makes a pastoral of herself and the loved ones of these poems. A gorgeous work that invites one to breathe as though they haven’t in a long, aching, time.

 

New York Editions by Michael Snediker

“I have /brought my beloved to the river/ but he won’t drink ” says Sneidiker. The collection, based on a twenty-four volume set of Henry James’ fiction, is an eclectic world of subtle warmth and surprising glee. “you were/immune/to Midas/manspreading”, the poet has his own golden touch balancing a cutting wit and true tenderness. Bringing James across genre, the book makes a poetic of “thinking about doing differently”.

 

Blessing the Boat: New and Selected Poems by Lucille Clifton

The great of greats, Clifton’s collection of poems showcases her lyrical prowess from 1988 to 2000. “May you kiss/the wind then turn from it/ certain that it will/love your back”. Poems of black femininity, of reclamation, staring back without blinking, Clifton asks what it will take for the land to love her back. These poems take the power from a nation and make a new land.

 

Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

Written from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, these poems navigate the space of tragedy, what it means to survive, where we go after disaster, who experiences disaster, who doesn’t, what is the economy of loss. “None of them talked about Katrina./She was their odd sister,/ the blood dazzler”.  

 

Newsworthy By Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton

Coming out on April 20th, Mouton’s poems are sure to be a powerhouse. In a brief sneak peak on Instagram, we see gems like, “They will try to sell you/ the myth of my lips”. Mouton’s work often explores violence against the black body, motherhood, and what it means to hold oneself in a time surrounded by destruction. “She says our names/ like they are blood moons/ in a clear sky”. These poems ask you come home when the street lights are blazing.  

 

Exit Pastoral by Aidan Forster

A poet in the business of dazzling, Forster’s craft is a spectacle one must experience. These poems find queerness in the swamps and fields of South Carolina, queering the land that carries first kisses, making a geography of queer desire. “To unlock your body from the water until you feel/ like something loves you”. What is a queer body in the wind? A queer body in the rain? Forster takes us by the hem of our skirt, and leads us into the pasture.   

 

Sink by Desiree Dallagiacomo

Of her mother, this poet writes, “I will tell you that I love her/ still and still again”. Dallagiacomo’s debut book steps into the room where everything happened, and sits, and sinks. These poems unravel what happens on nights that are too quiet. Unraveling themes around family and mental health, this is a poet who will hold your hand and face the wreckage.

 

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Not necessarily a book of poems, but one of the most formative studies on the lyrical lens I’ve ever encountered. Roy’s book of fiction follow twins Rahel and Estha across generations as they recover from a family tragedy. This writer’s ability to carry a moment into an experience is unmatched. Writing of stories not unlike her own, Roy states, “The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings.”

 

Kin.dred by Ayokunle Falomo

Where do we find fear and how does it find us? This book unravels questions of what we are haunted by and what we haunt. Deeply intimate, at the nerve, Falomo brings his family, his “kin” into this space and you the reader are with him. “Always becoming. I am/ nothing  / but dust, ever terrified/ of coming close to those/ closest to me” And maybe he’s afraid of you too. These poems ask where do put that fear when it’s comes?

Gracias

Posted April 29, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

Gracias

 

Gracias por las historias de fantasmas

De animales y de marcianos.

Gracias por lo mágico

Porque es más de lo que podría creer

Gracias por la música clásica.

Porque me da una melodía hermosa

Gracias por el cielo estrellado

Porque cuando lo miro el me mira hacia mi

Y me regala sentimientos

Como si la luna solo tuviera ojos para mí

Gracias por el sonido y el cerebro

Gracias por la naturaleza

Porque no puedo vivir sin ella

Gracias por mis manos

Porque sin ellas no podría escribir esta escritura

Gracias por mis ojos

Porque sin ellos no podría ver la belleza del mundo

Gracias a la vida porque sin ella

No podría compartir mi historia con el mundo.

 

Thanks

 

Thanks for the stories of fantasies

Of animals and martians.

Thanks for the magic

Because it’s more than can be created

Thanks for classical music.

Because it gives me a beautiful melody

Thanks for the starry sky

Because when I look at it it looks back

And gives me feelings

Like if the moon only had eyes for me

Thanks for sound and the brain

Thanks for nature

Because I can’t live without it

Thanks for my hands

Because without them I couldn’t write this

Thanks for my eyes

Because without them I couldn’t see the beauty of the world

Thanks for life because without it

I couldn’t share my story with the world.

By: Alexandra, 3rd grade

H-E-B Poetry Pop-Ups

Posted April 25, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

National Poetry Month at WITS is about spreading the beauty of poetry across the city. In WITS classrooms, students are encouraged to write about what they love–and often, that means food poems! Food, like poetry, brings us together and allows us to express love. That’s why we partnered with six H-E-B locations around Houston to showcase WITS student work for our communities to share in the love and joy of poetry.

 

Thank you H-E-B Tournament of Champions and Copy.com for partnering with us for these Poetry Pop-Ups! Check the signs out at:

  • Bellaire
  • Buffalo Speedway
  • Bunker Hill
  • Heights
  • Montrose
  • San Felipe

How to Draw Me

Posted April 22, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

 

How to Draw Me

 

I wish you to draw me well like a

person sitting by a mountain. Make my

face as precious as a bucket of jewels.

 

Make my body as strong as a

bulldozer, and make my legs as fast

as a helicopter wing going full speed.

 

Make my eyes two diamonds in a

galaxy of stars.

 

Make me!

 

-Benito, 4th grade

I Love You

Posted April 15, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

I Love You
I love you so much that I eat thousands of hearts.
I love you so much that I talk to butterflies.
I love you so much that flowers bloom when I pass by.
I love you so much that my soul changes color.
I love you so much that I cry chunks of rainbow.
I love you so much that I’m a fish.

By Evelyn, 1st Grade

 

WITS Alliance at AWP 2019

Posted April 12, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

AWP 2019 was a huge success! We had so much fun connecting with WITS Alliance members, hosting and attending dynamic panels and readings, and meeting writers from across the country. See some highlights from our time in Portland below!

Panel highlights:

  • Literary Changemakers: Representation & Visibility in the Writing World

Panelists: Tina Cane, Suzi Garcia, Natalie Lima, Eloisa Amezcua, Justin Jannise

Natalie Lima talking about ways that University of Arizona helped increase diversity to 65% of writers of color–how we can’t consider race without class, and how the program established a scholarship for first generation college graduates.

  • Poets Vs. Poets: Dismantling the Bias Against Performance Poetry

Panelists: Monica Prince, Paul Tran, Safia Elhillo, Denice Frohman, Bill Moran

“Slam is a team sport… [the reason I’m a poet] is having this human interaction, this touch… language is important, but I come to AWP because I love my people and I want to see my community.” – Safia Elhillo on the importance of community building in her poetic life

  • Revolutionary Voices: Harnessing the Power of Language

Panelists: Desireé Dallagiacomo, Ellen Hagan, Merna Hecht, Jake Vermaas

“We are pushing away any stereotype of each other, or what teachers have about students. We are creating dialogue…we are creating a space with no assumptions.” – Ellen Hagan on the work being done to support students in the Bronx through the DreamYard Project

  • Challenging Tokenization: Writers of Colors Respond

Panelists: Analicia Sotelo, Chris Santiago, Janine Joseph, Tiphanie Yanique, Leslie Sainz

“Tokenization is the appearance of equity.” – Leslie Sainz speaking on the ways people of color working in publishing are often encouraged to solicit other writers of color without seeing structural changes to the industry

“What do we when we find ourselves as tokens?…I’m using that power of tokenization to hire new diverse staff, expose new voices… but it’s a lot of work.” – Tiphanie Yanique on her work as a professor and how she is using her power to impact change

  • A Job of One’s Own: How to Create a Professional Life That Works for You

Panelists: Meggie Monahan, Natalia Sylvester, Ramiza Koya, Nancy Reddy, Jesse Donaldson

“I launched a company, commissioned a logo, DIYed my own website and business cards. I learned how to quote clients, draft up contracts, invoice them and make sure I was paid on time. All the while, I applied these same research/obsession skills to publishing and the craft of writing, attending every conference and workshop I could afford and/travel to. If an author was in town, I went to their book signing. If they were teaching a workshop at my library or through an organization, I signed up. This was my way of cobbling together a DIY MFA. I am fully aware that it might not be what would work for everyone—the path to publishing and even alternate paths are structured in favor of those with certain and often very different kinds of privilege…” – Natalie Sylvester on how she started her own copywriting business while working toward the publication of her first novel

  • Safe Writing Spaces: Building Community Through Literary Advocacy

Panelists: Angela So, Cathy Linh Che, Elizabeth Bryant, Renée Watson, Michael Martinez

“We try to create spaces of intimacy… every retreat begins with an opening circle for every single person to speak and listen to each other” – Cathy Linh Che on how Kundiman creates a space of vulnerability for writers of color to create community

“We’re always asking ‘where are you from, where are you now, where do you want to go… what’s happening in the world, and what do you want to say about it?’” – Renee Watson on the important questions she asks the youth at the I, Too, Arts Collective

  • Off-site Reading at Literary Arts:

“Fear kept me loving one man… even when he was so clearly designed for oceans when I cannot swim” – Monica Prince

 

Thank you to all our panelists and partners. See you in San Antonio for AWP 2020!

National Poetry Month 2019

Posted April 5, 2019 & filed under Notebook.

WITS is celebrating National Poetry Month!

Join us at our WITS events in April–we can’t wait to celebrate poetry with you! Use our hashtag #HoustonIsPoetry to connect with us on social media.

April 7th: Space City Slam Grand Slam

Watch as the most talented youth poets in Houston perform original poetry in front of a live audience for the chance to join Meta-Four Houston and represent our city at Brave New Voices this summer. Jackson Neal, Houston Youth Poet Laureate and 3-time Meta-Four Houston member, will be our emcee! Sunday April 7th, 3pm at Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH).

Reserve your free standby ticket here:

https://witshouston.org/grandslam

April 8th: KPFT Open Journal

Tune in to KPFT’s Open Journal Monday, April 8th at 6pm for an interview with WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler and Bayouth Collective co-founder and member Mackenzie. Hear about their work and the impact of poetry in Houston.

Listen here, or on the radio at 90.1FM:

http://kpft.org/

April 13th: Young Writers Reading Series – Blooms

At our Young Writers Reading, WITS students read their work for the first time in front of an audience. Celebrate storytelling as our young writers share their best poems, stories, and essays from the school year at this important and exciting experience that will stay with them for a lifetime. Saturday April 13th, 11:30am at Discovery Green.

Sundays, April – June: Poetry and Pose

A free family-friendly program for Houston’s creative writing and yoga enthusiasts. The session will open with a 45 minute creative writing activity inspired by yoga practice and close with a 45 minute yoga session with an instructor from Happy Feet Yoga. 11 am at Discovery Green every Sunday, Hess Deck Patio.

H-E-B Poetry Pop-Ups

While shopping for groceries at H-E-B stores, take a look around for WITS student poems! In the classroom, our writers encourage students to write about what they love most–and often, that includes food. With Poetry Pop-Ups at the Bellaire, Buffalo Speedway, Bunker Hill, Heights, Montrose, and San Felipe locations, WITS partners with H-E-B stores around Houston to share that love with our communities. Can you find all of the poems in your store?

Rain Poems

Our WITS Bayouth Collective will be installing poetry in Buffalo Bayou Park–with a catch. Bring some water or wait for a rainy day to reveal #rainpoems, stenciled in invisible ink that only emerges when wet. Look for signs near water fountains on the trail for a chance to splash water on the poetry-covered path:

 

* Eleanor Tinsley Park

* Rosemont Bridge

* Inside the dog park

* Houston Police Memorial

 

Poem-A-Day

Follow our Twitter for daily excerpts from WITS classrooms, Facebook for weekly student poems, and Instagram for three-panel reveals and stories from our events!

 

Snow Soft Winter Owl

Posted December 4, 2018 & filed under Notebook.

Winter in Houston isn’t usually snowy. Or cold. But Gia used her chilliest imagination to bring her readers into an icy winter wonderland.

Snow Soft Winter Owl

 

It’s like a soft winter owl

whispering through the sound

of the wintery soft sky.

The snow is like a soft, fluffy blanket

floating through the frosty cold air.

It’s like whip cream

piled high on a snowflake cake.

It snuck into my city

from the snowy city.

It was special.

The special snowy air

came from

the soft-whispering talking air,

like a crystal mixed with ice cream,

like white milk floating in the cold, icy sky.

On the windy ice cloud,

a dancer is dancing

through the icy sky.

 

by Gia, 3rd grade

Mi familia | My Family

Posted November 21, 2018 & filed under Notebook.

 

Cuando veo a mi mama

La veo en mi nombre y en mis ojos

Cuando escribo mi nombre en el aire

Espero y luego hay luces en el

Cuando veo a mi papa me siento feliz

Cuando veo tristeza

Yo también tengo tristeza.

Cuando mi mama hace la cena

Yo huelo mi nombre en ella

Oigo mi nombre fuerte

Cuando llega la lluvia fuerte

Cuando mi mama toca mis manos

Se siente mi nombre en ella

Y recuerdo mi nombre en mi papa.

——————————————————

When I see my mom

I see her in my name and my eyes

When I write my name in the air

I make a wish and see lights in it

When I see my dad I feel happy

When I see sadness

I also feel sad.

When my mom makes dinner

I smell my name in it

I hear my name loudly

When the strong rains come

When my mom touches my hands

I feel my name in her

And remember my name in my dad.

 

Lola, 3rd grade

An Autumn Leaf

Posted November 6, 2018 & filed under Notebook.

An autumn leaf looks like

a boat

a heart

fire

a lizard tail

a broken-down rocket ship.

 

An autumn leaf smells like

cinnamon

vinegar

pumpkin pie

money

rain dripping on the ground.

 

An autumn leaf sounds like

a drum

paper

snowflakes

Santa’s sleigh shhhh

like snow is falling.

 

An autumn leaf feels like

soft

hard

like a rat

like broken paper

like cotton balls.

 

by a WITS Kindergarten class

Halloween

Posted October 31, 2018 & filed under Notebook.

Rusty gate at a farm,

an old door

creaking open.

The floor squeaking,

an old metal shed.

 

The haunted house,

flickering lights,

broken windows,

furnace cracked,

an abandoned cemetery.

 

A monster comes out

a swamp that smells

like sewage. It’s green,

slimy. Its eyes are red.

 

The wind blows leaves,

thunder and lightning,

rain pounds.

 

A werewolf howls at the

moon. There’s a

knock on the door.

 

by Aidan, 3rd grade

All About Wendy and Wind

Posted August 28, 2018 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

If Harvey were a girl, I would be so happy.  Harvey would be nice and cute and maybe she’d have a different name.  Her name would be Wendy, like the wind.  Her colors are pink and purple.

Wendy is going to play with me.  I like Wendy. She is going to have a pet that is a chick.  Her chick is named Wind.  The chick is blue like the water, but Wind does not like water.  She loves cupcakes and land.

Wendy and Wind like to play together and be nice to all the people.  Wendy makes hurricanes because she wants water for Wind to take a bath.  She surrounds everything so Wind will get wet.  Wind is sad when Wendy make hurricanes, and feels sorry for all the people that have to leave, all for taking a bath.  Wind also feels embarrassed.  But Wendy is sometimes sad, because Wind doesn’t want to take a bath.

 

By Lizbeth, 2nd Grade

Moon

Posted July 5, 2018 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Student Writing.

Moon, why are you so bright?

You show the stars the way through the night.

You are the sand man’s face,

in my pocket every place.

You translate my dreams,

and give me dreams of what you mean.

Sing me a lullaby!

Close my eyes enemy of the sun,

mystery of the navy sky.

I fly by your rocky, hard, dusty, round ground.

I can’t finish,

I don’t want to give away a secret that means the most.

The past was too important to ruin the memory.

Put me down,

so the sun can wake me up.

 

by Hayden, 4th grade

To Beeville and Back

Posted June 12, 2018 & filed under Classroom Reflections, Event, News, Notebook, WITS People.

I was in Beeville for a five-day stay in May to cast the WITS magic in the sleepy south Texas town. Driving down the main drag, you become familiar with the population count (approximately 13,000), clearly marked as you enter then leave the city limits.

Along with writers Autumn Hayes, Matty Glasgow, and Dinorah Pérez-Rementería, I was assigned a micro-residency for the last week of school. I was placed in the fourth-grade classrooms of RA Hall Elementary, one of six schools in the school district, while my fellow writers were assigned to lower elementary and middle schools. The week before, two other writers brought WITS to the high school. In a minute way, we had magnificently spellbound the district.

Most schools are mayhem during the last week of school, but not RA Hall. Upon entering the classroom, I found the students quickly harnessed the energy inherent in the final weeks of school into creativity. Fresh off the constraints of state testing, they were keen to push the boundaries of the expected and dive into the playfulness of poetics. They constructed persona poems, authored odes and wandered among campus greenspace to create nature poems.

   

One classroom, filled with forty-five students, listened intently to the mini-lesson, then silently took pen to paper to let their imaginations soar. A student whose sleepy head initially rested on his desk sprang into action to praise the ordinary yet awesome nail. Others found the voices of baseballs and bananas, iPhones and fans, tapping into their objects’ innermost desires and greatest fears. They were unstoppable and inspiring. They were writers on fire.

Thanks to the Joe Barnhart Foundation for bringing WITS to Beeville!

 

Gretchen Cion holds a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and a M.A. in Education from Hunter College in New York City. While teaching in NYC, she was involved with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which ignited her love of creative writing. Thanks to her profession as an educator and literacy specialist, she has written countless stories to help teach the craft of writing. Currently, she is working on a collection of essays and an umpteenth revision of her screenplay, Good Liar. When she is not writing, she can be found compiling the perfect mix for her rise-and-shine dance parties. She lives in Houston with her artist husband Ian and their two wildly cool boys.

Famous Author

Posted April 30, 2018 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

 

A blank paper is not blank at all,
it’s a balloon that floats me up into the sky.
Up here, I can see everything.

When I come back down,
I grasp my pencil, kiss the paper.
It cuts into what is blank
and changes into an explosion of light.

I see myself more clearly than I ever have before.
The picture stares back at me
waiting.

By Caitlyn, 7th grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on KPFT 90.1 by MacKenzie, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Balloons Rising” by A.A.Aalto. freemusicarchive.org. Produced by Susan Phillips.

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

Perfect Square

Posted April 27, 2018 & filed under Notebook, Poem, Poem of the Day, Student Writing.

It was a perfect square.
It had four matching corners
And four equal sides. And it was perfectly happy…
But on Saturday, the square was cut,
crumbled, and snipped.
So it made itself into a heart
that beats, loves, and keeps me alive.

By Raynisse, 1st grade

Click the media player above to listen to the poem read on KPFT 90.1 by Tori, WITS Youth Advisory Council Student. The background music is “Hearts Aflutter” by Podington Bear. freemusicarchive.orgProduced by Susan Phillips.

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