HPMS 424 Poetry Celebration

The Hunts Point Middle School 424 Poetry & Portfolio Celebration, 5/14/2010

For 7 years, I’ve been teaching Poetry to my 7th Graders. Instead of exploring high school or other advanced poetry, I focus upon a variety of themes to teach poetic devices: Onomatopoeia, alliteration, simile, metaphor, rhyme, repetition, meter, double-entendre, personification, hyperbole, etc. I do, however, read a few poems from Langston Hughes, such as “Kid In The Park,” “Dream Deferred,” et al. The chosen themes are an original hodge-podge: Chopsticks, Shoes, Giraffes, Ode to Eyebrows, Ode to Robotico (the robotic computer that calls home when a child is absent from school), Epitaphs, Ode to Mr. Trash Can (the name of our garbage pail in the classroom), Factory Windows Are Always Broken, Parachute Weddings (and other oddities from the Guinness Book Of World Records), Text Merging, etc. When I attended Western Washington University, I learned about Text Merging in one of my Graduate Educational classes. You take 2 non-related poems, choose a word or a phrase from one, write it down, then cross it off. Repeat this process with the other poem until most—if not all—words are eliminated. The result is a strange, yet interesting poem with inferences. Here is the most recent example:

Ashley Messed My Mind Up, But I Still Love Her, by Mr. Jacobson, 2010 (text merging)…

I could TRUST her to
explore the DARKNESS and SECRETS
I find the courage within
ALL DAY
I run from Ashley
She’s the reason
I find myself
I would DIE heartbroken
But sometimes I think of
The sounds…
And shadows…
To be NOTHING if she leaves me here…

The next poem is “Ode to Dahli,” one of my 2 lovely cats:

Ode to Dahli, by Mr. Jacobson, 2010

She was never a lap cat
She moved aimlessly from place to place
She scurried randomly about the house

To play
To entertain
To pass the time
To do what she does naturally
To sleep for 75% of her life

Himalayan Torti Point is her hue
Black, brown, spotted and gray too
Dahli represents the Dahli Lama

She is the mother of Lily, the tuxedo feline
Communicating telepathically via Zen airwaves
They share the love of mother and daughter
A natural yet unbreakable bond

She was never a lap cat…
But one day she leapt into the air
Dug her claws into my office chair
Then she landed gracefully onto my lap
As the engine began to purr
There she stayed for the very first time…

My last poem is an Epitaph for the late Lena Horne. Since she just passed, there are a myriad of articles to peruse. Check out this one:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/arts/music/10horne.html

Before divulging my recent epitaph, I wanted to briefly explain how my students approached their topics. They were able to choose any deceased person as long as they had a birthday, sincere message, and the date of passing. Despite the sadness of this topic, all of my students (both past and present) did a magnificent job. Topics ranged from family members to Tupac Shakur to worldwide victims subjected to painful circumstances, and more…  At some point, I will post one of their poems once I get permission to do so. As for now, here is my Lena Horne Epitaph:

Lena Horne: An Epitaph

Born in 1917
And just departed
She paved the way
African Americans could express voice
She sang Jazz when it was forbidden
Perhaps it wasn’t accepted by the
the masses…or…Master Race

“I was like a butterfly pinned to a pillar”

BREAK that barrier she did
Women of color
Resonate worldwide
Jazz will be sad to lose you
HOWEVER
Your voice is eternal
Your breath will always be felt
In our dimension
You’ll continue to beat
In the hearts of millions
May 9, 2010

What happens during the Poetry/Portfolio Celebration?

Both of my classes (701 and 704) will be showing off their projects to almost the entire middle school. Students created invitations and delivered them. My role is basically project manager. I supervise, let them take charge, and give them whatever supplies they need. They get to make the guest list. Hopefully, we’ll have a nice turnout. Our Principal, Dr. Hughes, always shows his support. Here’s a quick shameless plug: His band is called “Johnny Seven.” They have a Myspace page and music to purchase on itunes. Moving onward, I’m blessed to be working with an incredibly talented staff…
In any case, when our guests arrive, they simply “walkabout” the room, read whatever they want (Poetry and Portfolios), ask questions, and leave feedback notes. When it’s all over, the students collect their feedback notes in a pocket and usually write some type of reflection for homework. I believe that students should be proud of their work (regardless of intellectual capacity), show it off, and reflect upon the experience.

This will be an excellent end to a busy week. Enjoy the weekend! 🙂

Best, Evan J.