A Life Filled with Tenderness

Posted December 18, 2017 & filed under Notebook, WITS People.

Dear friends,

What does it mean to live a life “filled with tenderness”? Is it opening a door for a stranger, sharing lunch, lighting a candle?

These grey winter days can feel overwhelming, as though we are being asked to do more than is humanly possible. And yet….

And yet I remember the days in Houston following the hurricane more clearly than yesterday. There was no time to ask why. We put aside our “to do” lists and did for our friends and neighbors what needed to be done.

At WITS we gathered at the convention center, where 10,000 evacuees waited for aid, and we connected with kids by reading, writing, and really listening to them. We used what gifts we had to help people begin to heal.

Here in Houston, everyone was giving. Friends and colleagues across the nation did whatever they could. Soon we were all wrapped up in the generosity surrounding us. It was as though our city became a WE in a powerful moment, linked together by an extreme need.

Today Houston continues to rebuild. WITS is providing creative writing programs for 52,000 children, including those in schools that were displaced by Harvey. A WITS education will feed these students’ curiosity, creativity, and desire to become active, articulate citizens. Please let us know if you can help us make a lifelong difference for these resilient kids.

All my best,






Robin Reagler, PhD
Executive Director

Excite Young People about Poetry with a New Book, Open the Door

Posted June 14, 2013 & filed under Notebook, WITS People.

41wOxPaAwIL._SY300_“Worried you don’t know how to teach poetry? Frustrated that your students groan at the sight of a poem? Open the Door will change all that. The writers not only give teachers permission to approach the teaching of poetry through a fresh portal; they also provide clear directions for finding that elusive door in the wall.” –Carol Jago, past president, National Council of Teachers of English
WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler, as well as writers such as Dave Eggers and Yusef Komunyakaa, is among those experts who provide lesson plans and advice for teachers of young poets.  Open the Door is appropriate for first-time and veteran teachers, and it contains valuable and inspirational resources that you will want to keep on hand.  The collection of essays is available now through McSweeney’s. And it also currently available as a free eBook on the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute website, along with a range of other free educational resources.

Scattered Blossoms: Poets on Twombly

Posted May 9, 2013 & filed under Notebook.


For 20 years WITS and the Menil Collection have worked closely in a project that weaves together art and writing, and the experience has been evocative for students and WITS writers alike. WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler is organizing an event on Sunday at 2pm in the Menil’s Twombly Gallery for poets who have been inspired by the abstract art of Cy Twombly. Many of these writers have taught with WITS in the past. Join us for this free event and hear new work by:

Joseph Campana

Jane Creighton

Robin Davidson

Christa Forster

Peter Hyland

Jonathan Moody

Laura Mullen

Robin Reagler

Fran Sanders

Charlie Scott

Randall Watson

Tria Wood

Dom Zuccone

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.  

Celebrate Literacy with HoustonPBS

Posted April 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Hosted by Houston’s former First Lady, Andrea White, the evening will include a panel discussion moderated by KUHF News reporter, Edel Howlin with leaders from local literacy organizations. Mrs. White will also debut her new children’s book Tummies on the Run, with co-author Mimi Vance.

Admission is FREE but you must register online.

Featuring a distinguished panel of literacy experts:
Margaret Doughty, Literacy Powerline
Sheri Foreman, Houston Center for Literacy
Dr. Rhea B. Lawson, Houston Public Libraries
Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools

Presented in conjunction with World Book Night.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 6:30pm
at the United Way Community Resource Center.

Presenting Sponsor: John P. McGovern Foundation

For more information call  713-743-8459  or visit

Way To Go!

Posted November 8, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Join us in congratulating these past and present WITS writers and students:

Chuck Carlise’s new chapbook A Broken Escalator Still Isn’t Stairs is now available on Amazon.

WITS student Jasmine Davis, who works with WITS writer Melanie Malinowski, won Honorable Mention for her essay “My Life with Clorox” for the Kidney Times Essay Contest.

WITS Summer Camp teacher Aime Gallardo won the 2011 Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award.

Hannah Gamble won the National Poetry Series. Her book Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast will be published by Fence Books in 

News about Van Garrett’s trip to Latvia can be found on his website. Writers in the Schools supported this project through Amy Storrow at the Department of State. Van was featured in a TV story here.

Artist Raul Gonzalez (artist in residence with WITS) was the featured artist for Houston Community College Southwest’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Janine Joseph was named one of the Best New Poets of 2011.

Former WITS writer Marc McKee published a new book titled Fuse.  You can purchase your copy at amazon.com.

Executive Director Robin Reagler’s chapbook Dear Red Airplane was published  by Seven Kitchens Press.

Tria Wood and partner-in-art Tara Conley announced that their art installation, My Life as a Doll, will open at DiverseWorks on November 11th, 2011—that’s right, 11/11/11!

Flower Day

Posted May 20, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

May 20th is Flower Day.  Robin Reagler, Executive Director of WITS, often tells the story of her mother explaining to her what she needed to do to be a poet.

The first thing on the list?  Memorize the names of 20 flowers.  So, Robin got right to work: daisy, azalea, silverbell, dahlia, magnolia, petunia, zinnia, snowdrop, iris, tulip, tiger lily….

Robin learned her first writing lesson.  Smart writers study, observe, and notice world around them.  Smart writers find ways to become one with the world outside of them.  In honor of poets and flowers everywhere, here is a piece written by a third grader:

Listen to Who I Am

I am the tiny, yellow flower that comes out in spring

I am the ghost hiding in your book

I am the moon, brighter than the sun

I am your flag singing from morning to night

I am the white paper you write your stories on

I am a balloon that goes up and never comes back

I am the old shoe that walks away from you

I am the shadow that follows you forever

I am salt like the snow in winter

I am a dream that opens and closes

I am the baseball that flies like a bird

I am the musical note that plays on the moon

I am beneath your feet

I am above the stars

I am in your soul

By Alyssa, age 9

posted by Marcia Chamberlain

WITS Appears on Fox 26’s Hola Houston

Posted June 14, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler recently appeared on Fox 26’s community affairs program Hola Houston to discuss the transformative power of reading and writing beginning with the early years of childhood. During the segment, she also explains how parents can get the WITS program in Houston schools. View her interview with Host Josè Griñan.