It doesn’t take long to fall for the fourth graders at John Harris Elementary. I have been there this week for a creative writing residency, funded by the South Dakota Arts Council and the John Harris PTA.
It’s been an amazing experience, partly because these kids are so well-read, so thoughtful and funny—so insightful. It’s only been a week, and it’s hard to imagine leaving.
During lunch, I set up my old-fashioned, manual typewriter outside the lunchroom, and they are allowed to visit, one at a time, in order to write a poem. We work together and we work fast, because lunch is short, and because we are hurling ourselves at something fairly ambitious; it’s best not to think too long about those sorts of adventures.
We are trying to capture our beginner’s mind in poetry, in this moment, blanketed by the world. We are writers collaborating, not in a secluded attic or retreat, but in a lunchroom, bellies freshly filled, legs ready to pounce on recess. We try to get our best thoughts banged out onto the page, and then we walk away from them. No revision. No second chances. No rules.
The students pretty much wrote these poems on their own. I did the typing, and I tried mightily to be true to precisely what they wanted to say, all while asking the right questions to help them be successful. What if we went back to the beginning of the poem and repeated that first line again? Would you like to hear how that sounds? If you fell asleep in the middle of this poem, what would you dream? What’s another word to describe this picture in your mind? And another? And another?
Their poems are published in the posts below. I kept them each in their own post, so parents and friends could search them and print them easily. All publishing rights remain with the writers themselves. I also included a poetry prompt at the end of each poem. Grab a notepad (or typewriter) and write something of your own. Write fast. Write well.
I am so pleased the writers I worked with this week have all been willing to share their work on this blog. They are brave. They are imaginative. They are alive.
They are writers.