Terry Blackhawk: Poets In Our Schools

May 01, 2014

“Since feeling is first”…the poet writes… “who pays any attention/ to the syntax of things/ will never wholly kiss you.” (e. e. cummings) Or, alternately, “A little Madness in the Spring/ Is wholesome even for the King.”  (Emily Dickinson)

As we look back on a busy Poetry Month 2014, I want to raise a flag for poetry and express my sincere appreciation to Detroit Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools Foundation for helping to make a home for poetry together with InsideOut Literary Arts. www.insideoutdetroit.org

2015 will mark the 20th anniversary of iO, whose mission (to encourage young writers to “think broadly, create bravely and share their voices with the wider world”) helps to realize the Michigan Department of Education goal of helping students “become enthusiastic about writing and learning to write.”

In schools where so much attention is paid, necessarily, to “the syntax of things,” I also make a claim for feeling, or for “a little Madness.” I am glad that so many DPS principals have recognized the importance of feeling (i.e., self expression through poetry) and have made room, despite challenging budgets and tight schedules, to bring iO into their schools. This year iO serves 22 DPS Schools, in addition to several charters and out of district schools.  A separate literary magazine for each school is now at the printer, and we eagerly look forward to year-end galas celebrating titles such as Star Brisas (Bennett), Jambo (Marcus Garvey), and Ink on the Tracks  (Western). These books give students an authentic purpose for writing and connect them with readers across the city, who gain insight into the souls and spirits of our children through their poetry.

There are growing numbers of excellent sites where one can learn more about poetry: The Poetry Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Program, the Academy of America Poets, to name a few. One of my favorites for classroom use is this one—from Edutopia, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-reasons-poetry-needed-schools-elena-aguilar.   Here are some key reasons to bring poetry into our classrooms:  (read more)

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