Rothko Chapel

Posted October 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Rothko Chapel

I think they were praying

for their dads, moms, brothers

and sisters. I think somebody

was praying for his mother

because she died. There are

white walls. The paintings are blue, black,

brown, and dark blue. The ceiling is

rough like the cement on the streets.

One painting looks likes clouds.

There is a train in another.

There is a cemetery. There are

six people burying someone.

I think the cemetery represents

where the artist that painted

these pictures died.

-by Eliseo, 3rd grade

Happy 109th Birthday to Mark Rothko! Our Writing at the Menil Program and the students who have walked through the Rothko Chapel have been continually inspired.

Listen to WITS Writers Tonight

Posted September 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Current WITS Writer Miah Arnold and past WITS Writer Sarah Cortez will be reading at Kaboom Books tonight at LitFuse’s Fall Season Opener.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Kaboom Book in Woodland Heights

7:30 PM, free

Here’s the announcement from LitFuse:

WITS Writer Miah Arnold

For our Welcome To Fall season opener, LitFuse is excited to welcome three of Houston’s very best: Miah Arnold, Marc Phillips, and Sarah Cortez. Miah Arnold is the author of Sweet Land of Bigamy (Tyrus Books 2012). Her essay, “You Owe Me” (originally published by Michigan Quarterly Review) will appear in Best American Essays 2012. She grew up in a house attached to The Three Legged Dog Saloon in rural Utah, studied history at Carleton College, and earned a Ph. D. in writing and literature at the University of Houston. She has served as a fiction editor at Gulf Coast and a poetry editor at Lyric Poetry Review. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Nanofiction, Confrontation, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the South Dakota Review. She has received a Barthelme Award, an Inprint/Diana P. Hobby Award, and an Established Artists Grant from the Houston Arts Alliance for her work.

Marc Phillips. “Author, journalist, in print since 1991. Award-winning short stories, poetry. Debut novel The Legend of Sander Grant (Telegram 2009). Lives in Houston.”

Former WITS Writer Sarah Cortez

Sarah Cortez is the author of an acclaimed poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop, and winner of the PEN Texas literary award in poetry. She edited Urban Speak: Poetry of the City; Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (winner of the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award); Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery; and Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books). In May 2011, her latest project entitled You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens was released by Arte Público Press. Her most recent title is “Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston,” a mixed-genre, groundbreaking memoir. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, The Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, The Texas Review, New Texas, Louisiana Review, Blue Rock Review, Pennsylvania English, The Midwest Quarterly and elsewhere and is widely anthologized in collections by Penguin, the Great Books Foundation, and other international publishers.

Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater

Posted August 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In the 1800’s there was a girl named Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-Eater. She’s not an ordinary girl. She’s a thunderbolt, a strike of lightning, an alligator hunter. She’s as tough as an ox. One day she decided to head west. Along her way she came across some horrible conditions. Nothing  bigger than her normal. One afternoon, she was sitting against the body of a pine tree. Suddenly a fierce animal approached the tree when Elizabeth was training her pet cobra. The animal was a rare white large mountain panther with razor sharp teeth. The people of the woods were scared of the big white beast.

“That’s an easy one to wrestle,” Elizabeth said.

As she looked into the eyes of the big cat, she whispered to herself, “You’re too easy to wrestle so I can just bring you home.”

After she said that, the white panther looked more friendly. He roared and bellowed. Luckily, Elizabeth taught herself how to speak mountain panther. He said, “Yes, you can train me to be more fierce, like you.”

“Yes,” she said.

Then she packed up her cobra and got on the back of a mountain lion and road home. When she got home, the people were no longer afraid of the beast. “Hurray for Elizabeth Wolf-Fighter, Snake-Rattler, Boar-eater!” they cheered. Then everyone was friends with the panther.

by Mikala, 4th grade

Notes from WITS Writer Sarah Gajkowski-Hill at Creative Writing Camp:

At camp that day we had a discussion of how rough it would’ve been to be a pioneer and how their entertainment, after a long hard day of work, was telling stories. Pioneers wouldn’t have been too impressed with these stories unless the heroes and heroines were larger than life and won against the elements. This discussion led to the students writing tall tales and then we distributed clay and they molded their main characters out of the clay.

 

Light’s Reflection

Posted August 8, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

I look into a clear blue river
That whispers to me, “Look here! Look here!”
And so I satisfy my curiosity and see a sliver
Of light outstretch a hand into where
I then see a collision of color
That tastes of sweet solace and content
With the thought of no longer returning to the other
Side of the light. The side where everything has so much intent
And all is done as asked from the city. But I
Know I feel the relief of this stream helping
Me defeat all existing anxiety within my eye
And giving me this chance to rest and dream, finally begin forgetting.
Life is a struggle endured every day
So one should just breathe we know
Everything will be okay.

by Hannah, 10th grade

A Pantoum from Creative Writing Camp

Posted July 24, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Camp Instructor Abby Estillore, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and a secondary teacher certification from UTeach Liberal Arts, is currently completing an MA in literature at the University of Houston—Clear Lake. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts to middle school students and serving as the grade level lead at Welch Middle School for HISD. Two years after recovering from open-heart surgery in 2008, Abby’s first poem, “Sleep,” appeared in The Marrow Literary Journal of the University of Houston–Clear Lake. She studies and writes poetry that focuses on language play, distortion, and imagination. This is her first summer working with the WITS Creative Writing Camp at the Bellaire campus. Here is a poem from her camp classroom:

To Do

To do you have to try
To know you have to learn
To stop you must defy
Success you have to earn

To know you have to learn
To get you have to reach
Success you have to earn
To help you have to teach

To get you have to reach
To fight you must stand tall
To help you have to teach
To rise you have to fall

To fight you must stand tall
To stop you must defy
To rise you have to fall
To do you have to try

by Aditya, 7th grade

Abby’s notes on the piece:

Though some structured poetic forms might feel restrictive, I took a chance introducing pantoums to my students. The majority of the group had an aversion to rhyming poems, so I thought about experimenting with the idea of recycling lines/phrases in poems as
well as allowing these lines to direct the poem’s path instead. In our final anthology, I did not expect several/multiple pantoum submissions; these poems carried a deep sense of the inarticulable and explainable, presence and absence. Of these sophisticated pantoums, I was impressed by Aditya’s “To Do.” Not only did he choose rhyming patterns, but he also infused a sense of urgency behind unassuming one-syllable words (try-learn, reach-teach, know-stop, fight-rise, must-have). The logical-poetical approach of his poem turns the philosophical into practicality. Aditya’s “To Do” is a straightforward, no-nonsense wise saying that should be printed on a WITS bookmark!

A snapshot of Creative Writing Camp

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna Featured on Nuestra Vida

Posted July 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Leslie Gauna and her daughter Marina, a former WITS camper, will be featured on Sunday’s edition of Nuestra Vida on Univision Channel 45. A professor at the University of Houston pursuing a doctorate degree, Leslie has taught Creative Writing Camp and speaks with host Grace Olivares on the joys of teaching for WITS and the power of writing in the classroom. Tune in this Sunday morning, July 15, to catch the interview. You can also find the interview here: http://univisionhouston.univision.com/comunidad/nuestravida/

Creative Writing Camp Connects to Houston Arts and Culture

Posted July 9, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

In an ongoing effort to enrich creative writing through an integration of literacy and art, students at our Creative Writing Camp took field trips to iconic Houston art and cultural centers including The Menil Collection, Rice University, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On these tours, they experienced and wrote about public art pieces, including James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” and Jaume Plensa’s popular “Mirror.” Younger writers in grades K-2 were visited in the classroom by artists, including contemporary dancers and drummers, who help students find beauty and unexpected inspiration in art and culture. “Children are most stimulated by the things and activities that surround them,” said Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools Executive Director. “Through the experience of seeing, touching and hearing art firsthand, our camp shows students that their writing is art and their words are powerful.”

Jameelah Lang, a second-year WITS writer goes on to say: “I continue to be fervently involved in WITS Creative Writing Camp because it teaches children that what they have to say is important. They learn writing skills dictated not by someone else, but by their own strengths and points of view.” This year’s summer Creative Writing Camp served more than 1,000 students, the largest turnout Writers in the Schools has ever seen. Stay tuned this month for poetry and writing from these field trips and camp.

A Poem from Camp: What I Want

Posted June 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

What I Want

I want to crush the trash of struggle

that my people go through

for the invisible spirits of joy

to appear as happiness again.

I want to capture the moment when

the devastation of my people blows

away with the monsoon winds that

come from the north.

I want to remember how the

Vietnamese dragon once came,

bringing happiness like a rare toy

to our people.

I want to write about how the

wet rice fields were our only key

to survival and how my people will

bring peace to the world.

By Jacqueline

A Poem from Camp – Wonder

Posted June 26, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Wonder

(inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope”)

Wonder is the thing with sun and light

That lands straight in the soul,

And twists and turns—all night

And only stops at the answer

And the brightest marvel is in the fire

And faith must be in the water

That could abandon the small weak light

That made so many wonder

I’ve seen it in the arid places,

And in the oddest land

But, never, in extreme,

It makes me question all that gleams.

By Amy, 5th grade

Collage Poetry Game at Camp

Posted June 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Rob Kimbro, a theatre director and educator, is co-teaching with WITS writer Kiki Przewlocki a class of entering 3rd graders at the Creative Writing Camp this summer and shared this about his first day:

Writer John Looking for Inspiration

The 3rd grade class at Travis Elementary got off to a great start with a game of Everybody Who…  This game is similar to Musical Chairs.  The person without a chair has to share something true about themselves, and everybody else for whom that thing is true has to get up a find a new chair.  When the chaos dies down, a new person is left in the middle. That person shares a true thing about themselves, and we’re off again.  After learning a lot about each other, we wrote poems based on what we’d shared.  Here’s a collage poem made of lines from each of the young writers.

Collage Poem

I am poetic

I am an illustrator

I like sushi

I know how to write in cursive

I am really, really strong

I have been on a plane

I hate sushi

I like to read and write

I want to be awesome

I like chocolate marshmallows

I am a great artist

I love sports

I have an ear for everything

I can ride a bike

I have good parents

I have a good sense of humor

I like math

I have a bunk bed

I love the computer

I ate chocolate ice cream last week

My dance style is snazzy

Mirrors

Posted May 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

One day I was sitting at home. It was the day after I got my hair cut short.  I thought I was stable but then I took a good look in the mirror, and I wasn’t comfortable with what I saw.  I stared and thought about it.  Then I took my journal (which I didn’t usually write in!) and picked up a pencil and started writing.  The words just poured out onto the page.  In a few minutes I had a written a poem called “Mirrors.”  I didn’t share it with anyone.  It was just for me.  Then I met the folks from Purple Songs Can Fly project, and they asked if I wanted to write a song.  I read them my poem, and they said, “Yes!  You’ve already written a song. This is perfect.”  So, I recorded my first song ever, “Mirrors.”

By Kaitlin, 15

Kaitlin participates in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.  She turned her poem “Mirrors” into a song through the wonderful Purple Songs Can Fly program.  Click here to hear Kaitlin’s song “Mirrors.”

A Poet

Posted May 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

When a poet stares at time, everything stops.

When a poet loves, he freezes,

and his heart bursts open like an over-ripe banana.

When a poet thinks, he is so happy he will melt of happiness.

When a poet is angry, he will go crazy.

When a poet is sad, he will cry to death.

When a poet travels to a new land, he gets lost.

When a poet imagines, he sees himself as an astronaut

and then becomes one.

When a poet writes, he believes nothing is wrong

because he is at his best.

By Saadat Makki, 3rd grade

WITS Poets to Read in Public Poetry Series

Posted May 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

We are lucky to live in a city with so much poetry action!  Here is the latest announcement from our friends at Public Poetry:

Public Poetry continues in May with an exciting group of featured poets – Eric Ekstrand, Jasminne Mendez, John Pluecker and Robin Reagler.  Our special guest is artist Arielle Masson.  There will be a talented young WITS student, too. The Jungman Regional Library, 5830 Westheimer, 77057 (not far from the Galleria) is our library partner for this event.  See you there, Saturday, May 5 at 2 PM.  

Horse Barn

Posted April 26, 2012 & filed under Poem of the Day.


When we get there

the horses in their stalls

paw the dirt.

I cough in the dust.

We grab the feed,

and they whinny at me

when I pass by.

I get a brush; very tenderly

I scrape off the dirt.

They are as dusty and steamy

as a train when it chugs

down the track.

When we feed the mares,

their babies skip after us.

They run so fast

they fall.

by Isabella, 3rd grade

Click the link (above) to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Gabriel Arnold, a 4th grade student at Parker Elementary in Houston.

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This poem is featured as part of the 2012 A Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

The Rock

Posted April 25, 2012 & filed under Poem of the Day.

I block

the feelings that beat

against my shell.

I have beauty inside me

longing to be shown

to the world.

I am stiff with

the emotions that swirl

in my body.

I watch the butterflies

dance around me

with flaps of pride.

When it rains, I show

my shiny shell to the

lady called the flower.

She drops a warm petal on me

to show that we are no

different in soul.

For what would life be

without soul?

It doesn’t matter

what you have within,

only the soul matters.

As the sun’s rays hammer

into me, my beauty

faintly shows.

I am a rock.

by Ioana, 3rd grade

Click the link (above) to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Thomas Girardet, a 4th grade student at Parker Elementary in Houston.
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This poem is featured as part of the 2012 A Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

Bring Me the Happiness

Posted April 23, 2012 & filed under Poem of the Day.

Photo by Kate Brennan

The dream of freedom

Is the dream I seek

To escape these four

Walls which surround me.

To finally be able to dream

And think that I can make

All my dreams come true.

The dream of freedom means

No more threats

No more harassing words

No more “I am not the same.”

No more shame for not being like you.

This dream seems like it’s too far away

But bring me freedom!

Bring me the happiness of the day

When no living human will be ashamed

Of the way they look or feel.

Just bring me the dream of freedom

That one day is almost here.

Let it begin today.

by Kelly, 6th grade

Click the link (above) to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Alex Puente, 4th grade, and Kennedi Foust, 2nd grade, both students at Parker Elementary in Houston.
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This poem is featured as part of the 2012 A Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.

Singing Birds

Posted April 10, 2012 & filed under Poem of the Day.

In the morning a bird sings

“chirp, chirp, chirp.”

It sings about how it wants

to use words instead of sounds.

Soon there is a choir of birds

singing about what they want to do.

They will sing about eating good food,

about being grown.

They will sing about human things,

how they would want arms for wings,

and mouths for beaks, singing.

by Luke, 3rd grade

Click the link (above) to listen to the poem read on KPFT radio by Alexandra Maynard, a 4th grader from Parker Elementary.
apad

This poem is featured as part of the 2012 A Poem A Day campaign, a National Poetry Month celebration by Writers in the Schools (WITS) that features a different poem by a WITS student every day during April. Click here to learn more.