Public Poetry Reading on Saturday!

Posted January 31, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

Public Poetry LogoRun to the library! It’s Public Poetry!

This Saturday, February 1st, WITS writers will be reading their work at the Park Place Regional Library at 2 PM.

Come listen to the words of Kay Cosgrove, Peter B. Hyland, David Tomas Martinez, Lupe Mendez, and Nancy Pearson. To find out more about these poets, visit this link.

Public Poetry was the winner of Best Reading Series by the Houston Press. Come out and enjoy this spectacular reading in the Winter Series 2014.

Public Poetry Reading at The Carriage House

Posted September 4, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

13_publicpoetry_summerseries_septemberPublic Poetry is back again with a stellar line-up of poets.

Join us on Saturday, September 7th, at 2 PM for our Summer Series reading at the historic Clayton Library, The Carriage House, 5300 Caroline, 77004.

As always, a WITS student will kick off the event with an original poem.

You won’t want to miss the last sizzling reading of summer 2013.

See you there!

Poetry Around Town

Posted May 1, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Houston is Poetry Town.  Every weekend there are events featuring poets young and old.  Don’t miss the fun!

Here are two free WITS-related poetry events on Saturday, May 4th:

13_publicpoetry_springseries_mayPublic Poetry, the award-winning monthly reading series, will be at Oak Forest Neighborhood Library at 1349 West 43rd Street, Houston, TX, 77018, at 2 PM.  Featured poets include WITS Associate Director Bao-Long Chu.

Pluto Wild-Card Slam will be at Heights Neighborhood Library, 1302 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008, from 10 AM-12 PM. Youth ages 13-19 are encouraged to participate.  A poetry workshop will kick off the morning, followed by a slam competition.

Public Poetry Event on April 6th!

Posted April 3, 2013 & filed under Poem of the Day.

This is going to be fun!  Join us this Saturday, April 6th, at 2 PM at the Oak Forest Neighborhood Library for a memorable event.

There will be four fabulous poets who read their work, plus a special guest appearance by a young author from Writers in the Schools (WITS). Afterwards, meet and greet other poets at Plonk. Don’t miss the chance to catch Public Poetry in a new part of town!


Public Poetry exists to bring the public and poetry community together, and to create a buzz about poetry.

A monthly reading series is presented at various library locations in partnership with Houston Public Library.

Meta-Fourth Friday and Public Poetry

Posted November 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Friday! Spoken Word workshop at 7pm, then the slam at 8pm. You must participate in the writing workshop to take part in the Slam. Ages 13-19, oh and it’s FREE! More information on the WITS web site.

An excerpt from Meta-Four’s performance at A Celebration of Story:

Jo:  It’s like it’s not good enough to just be you anymore

Je:  But, that is the best time for you to be you

Eb:  I started by just being

Jo:  I started by experimenting

ALL:  Where we are now began by creating

Meta-Four students performing Nov 2012

Also, the Meta-Four Houston group will be performing Sat, Dec. 1 at Public Poetry, 2pm at Vinson Library. Don’t miss these talented students!

Public Poetry to Feature WITS’ Executive Director

Posted October 25, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

From Public Poetry:

“Poetry on TV??  Absolutely!  And we want YOU to be part of the audience on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 2 PM at Vinson Neighborhood Library, 3810 W Fuqua, 77045 when Houston Media Source’s camera rolls!

It’s all about filming our featured poets – Jasminne Mendez, John Pluecker, Robin Reagler and Scott Wiggerman – in a fabulous new library, built just two years ago, that is moving into the future.  It’s an inviting, interesting, people friendly place that combines both hi-tech and old school, with 46 computers, a colorful fantasy space for young kids to listen to story-time and another to express their creativity, a vibrantly hued hi-tech section that has flat screens for video gaming, side rooms for groups to meet spaced throughout, and of course, books and books and reading nooks.

Please arrive by 1:45. We’ll be set up for filming inside the rotunda entrance, sharing the space with artist Elaine Bradford’s zoo of vibrantly-hued crocheted animals. Filming will go on for about an hour and a half, so come prepared for that.  BUT, if you’re a camera shy lover of poetry, simply take a seat at the back, and you’ll be guaranteed off-camera privacy and anonymity.

Never camera shy, there will be some students reading their poems, too, including kids who participate withWriters In the Schools (WITS).”

Public Poetry Featuring WITS Student

Posted October 3, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join us this Saturday, October 6th at 2pm, for a fantastic lineup of Public Poetry at the Vinson Neighborhood Library. A WITS student will read two pieces along with a talented selection of Houston writers. Free as always!

Visit Public Poetry for more information.

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.  

Public Poetry: Join Us for the Last Reading in the Winter Series

Posted February 29, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Come hear WITS writer Ryler Dustin at 2 PM, Saturday, March 3, 2012 at Park Place Regional Library. Other featured poets include Hayan Charara, Marcell Murphy and Susan Wood.   As always, a WITS student writer will also read aloud a poem.  Don’t miss this last event in the Winter Series with Public Poetry, winner of the Best Reading Series 2011 by the Houston Press.  Afterwards, come meet the poets, select some books for signing, and enjoy some good Mexican food just down the street.

Here’s how to get to where it’s all happening. Park Place Regional Library, 8145 Park Place, 77017, is a stone’s throw from the intersection of I-45 and Loop 610. From 610, get on I-45 south. Traveling on I-45, take exit 39. (This is also an exit for Hobby Airport). On the south feeder, go under the freeway at the 2nd underpass (Broadway), and then turn right onto Park Place. The library is just one block from the freeway, on the left side of the street. There’s plenty of free parking, too.

Public Poetry on February 4th

Posted February 2, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Here’s the latest news from Public Poetry, winner of the Best Reading Series 2011 from the Houston Press.  Don’t miss this free event on February 4th featuring several former Writers in the Schools (WITS) teachers!
Did you ever think you’d hear a local TV news anchor read poetry?  Well, that’s what will happen at Park Place Regional Library on Saturday, February 4, when Art Rascon makes a special guest appearance at our next Public Poetry event at 2 PM.  We’re really happy to feature him in a growing list of great special guests, including Mayor Annise Parker, choreographer Dominic Walsh, a NASA administrator, artists, musicians and more.  As always, we have our line-up of outstanding featured poets with words ready – Alan Ainsworth, Joseph Campana, Sarah Cortez, Jeannie Gambill and Van G. Garrett.  We’ll also hear a few short poems from some talented young students.  Afterwards, there will be poetry books available and poets to sign ‘em.   And if poetry leaves you feeling hungry, come join us after that at the local Mexican on the corner.
Public Poetry events are all free, all ages, and everyone is welcome!  See you there.

WITS Supports Public Poetry!

Posted September 1, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Poetry is alive and well in Houston! Public Poetry, a nonprofit organization founded to bring poets and the general community together and to create a buzz about poetry, is ready to celebrate again.

Join in the fun at Kendall Neighborhood Library (609 N. Eldridge, 77079) on Saturday, September 3rd, at 2 PM.

This month’s featured poets include Hayan Charara, Marcell Murphy, longtime WITS supporter Susan Wood, and WITS writer Ryler Dustin. KUHF‘s St. John Flynn will make a guest appearance, and student poet, Lucie Gulick, from WITS will perform!

After the reading, we’ll head over to Beans Café Coffeehouse for some good conversation.  Directions: Turn right out of the library parking lot, and then take 1st left just after the first traffic light (1127 Eldridge Parkway).

Mention PUBLIC POETRY and get a 10% discount on any coffee drink. Original photos from Katya Horner will be on display. Enjoy a great hour of on September 3rd, 2 PM, Kendall Neighborhood Library.

Where Are We Now: Jemma Leech

Posted June 3, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

In past posts, WITS introduced Jemma Leech, a student from our Summer Creative Writing Workshops. We’ve been following Jemma’s journey through writing over the last five years and are constantly amazed by her ability to see the extraordinary in everyday things. Her award-winning essays and poems garnered national attention when ABC World News named her their “Person of the Week.” The story, Gifted and Disabled: 10-Year-Old Beats the Odds in Essay Contest and in Life, featured Jemma’s outstanding skills as a writer with cerebral palsy who refused to let her physical condition get in the way of her dreams.

Jemma’s zeal for writing continues as an 8th grader today. Just this week, she won a national Gold Key award from the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Award Competition and was honored with fellow students at Carnegie Hall. She is the special guest for the Public Poetry event scheduled tomorrow at 2:00 PM at Houston Public Library. More details here.

We expect to glean more from Jemma’s genius when she becomes a freshman next year. Following are  examples of of her gift with words, taken from poems she wrote last summer.

Instruction to the Artist

Before you begin

Please remember that

Proper care should be taken

To give my thanks to the perfectly clear page

On which you draw

For it is the host of my life.

Then be sure to listen keenly

For the sound of my voice

For it sets me apart

From the burbling harmonies of the world.

Before pen touches paper

In that final moment

Search for my soul amid the air

Which surrounds you.

Only then might you draw me

Any which way you like

For if there is my gratitude, my voice and my soul

In your heart as you draw

Then the portrait will look

Just like me.

Camp Reflections 2010

So here it is, the final day of WITS 2010,
The prompt asked me to think of whether I’d do it all again.
Let me see, what have we done, these fifteen days in June
To make me wish that next year’s camp will come around real soon?

We’ve brilliged with the slithy toves, and with personas played,
Created countries just like us and detailed maps we made.
We’ve circled words in other poets’ work and drawn on top,
We’ve written plays and acted out, creative till we pop!

We visited the Blaffer and wrote of life in spheres,
We delved into our inner selves and wrote our deepest fears.
We facebooked heroes, learned to cook, wrote litanies with love,
Attempted sonnets Shakespeare-style, and hung our flags above.

Now the end is drawing nigh, Day Fifteen is now here,
Ms Irene and Aurora might be heard to give a cheer.
Ms Maddy breathes a sigh as all us eighth grades wipe a tear,
As friends we are and friends we’ll stay, and I’ll see you all next year.

Lessons from the Classroom: Writing that Transcends the Page

Posted April 13, 2011 & filed under Lesson Plan, Notebook, WITS People.

As I walked towards the front entrance of E.O. Smith Education Center to observe WITS Writer Deborah Wiggins, I sensed love in the air. On this Valentine’s Day, Wiggins’ writers were preparing to work when I slipped through the classroom door. An international performance poet with a commanding stature, Wiggins is a take charge teacher with a big smile and a warm heart. She wasted no time arresting the boy’s and girl’s attention, using a count-to-ten approach. By the time she reaches number 10, every bottom should be in its seat and all eyes should be on her. (She later told me her students usually are glued to their chairs by number 9.)

Deborah Wiggins inspires her 4th graders to create heart-shaped love poems. Photo by Jennifer Watson.

Getting the children to focus is one of the many challenges Wiggins learned since she took on the class last fall. WITS writers are tasked with developing innovative teaching methods that encourage children to think of language in unconventional ways in addition to showing them that writing about their everyday experiences can be fun. Although each WITS writer is given a sample curriculum as a guideline, customizing the lesson plan to each classroom is no easy feat, not even for a seasoned teacher like Wiggins.

“The biggest trick to working with the kids at Smith is [finding] engaging and active ways for them to interact with writing that transcends the page,” she said. “There are no interesting pieces without imagination. As long as their imaginations are alive, so are their emotions and stories.”

WITS student Guadalupe Hernandez and Mayor Parker. Photo by Gayatri Parikh.



In the spirit of the holiday, Wiggins shared a heart-themed prompt to inspire love poems. Everyone was given construction paper, scissors, and pencils to create a heart and decorate it and asked to write a poem beginning with a simile. The children read their work aloud, and the results were beyond charming. What impressed me most was the individual attention Wiggins gave to every student and her ability to draw on their emotions in a way that got them excited about describing their hearts’ desires.

Wiggins’ natural gift of connecting with her audience as a spoken word poet is a skill she transfers exceptionally well as a teacher. In a recent public performance she was invited to showcase both talents at the kickoff event for Public Poetry, a reading series established to celebrate poetry in the community. She brought along Guadalupe Hernandez, a 4th grader from E.O. Smith, to read poems in honor of National Poetry Month. Of the featured poets including Wiggins, Mayor Annise Parker, Rich Levy, Martha Serpas, and Eva Skrande, it was Hernandez who stunned the crowd with her two poems “Diamonds” and “Untitled” (below).
By Guadalupe Hernandez

My world feels
Cold and windy
The grass is wet
temperature around 65 degrees
it moves like a sphere
an airplane
the right way the wind is going
My world sounds like
Vibration of the wind
In my ear
Trees blowing
I could hear the freeway
When the wind blows
And the trees blow
And the leaves get in your face
And the bears migrate in the winter
And when it stops
It feels hot
I get mad
And our stuff flies away.

Her courageous performance was a testament of how writing “transcends the page” and manifests itself into an experience memorable enough to make a teacher/writer/poet’s heart incredibly proud.

by Jennifer Watson,
Writers in the Schools