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What an exciting time my life has been of late! After wrapping up an excellent adventure in Grand Rapids on Sunday the 11th of October, I headed south (only days before the first frost was due to arrive!). Northeastern Wayne County, Indiana in the town of Fountain City was my destination. I had been invited to share my poetry with 2 classes in the high school but learned,to my surprise, that more teachers were interested and didn’t want their students left out of the experience to meet and hear a published poet speak to them. Two small classes turned into five sessions: four double classes and one Honors Class!

I consider myself an early riser but getting up in the dark, at 5:30am, to place my “Field of Poetry” in front of the school before the students arrived was a bit early for me! At 8:00 o’clock, the first group of two classes came into the large meeting room where I was to do my presentation. I forgot, at that hour of the morning, 9th & 10th graders are not awake and certainly in no mind to actively participate. Thankfully, I had kissed the Blarney Stone many years ago and was able to blather on for 45 minutes not knowing if anything I said was sinking in. It was rather a disheartening experience.

The second group of 40+ students was a little better. I learned that the students really didn’t have time to read more than one or two of the signs in my “Field of Poetry” as they rushed into the building. But it did as I hoped…it piqued their curiosity. These students were more involved with actually trying to write a poem when I gave them the exercise, but there was still not very much participation when I asked questions of them.

The third group was a single Honors Class with 20 or so students. This group was very engaged and participated easily. Three or four even read the poems they wrote. And because I was stressing how reading poetry is a very subjective process, I did not critique what they had written. Instead, I expressed to them what I felt when they read their poem aloud. In one instance I was sure she was talking about theatre in the poem and told her of my theatre experience. But she surprised me when she said it was about her experience in the Marching Band! I immediately replied they are very similar in nature. The Honors Class was the best for me because they were obviously interested and engaged. I could have spent much more time with them.

The fourth group of students (40+ in size) were also very engaged but not as much as the smaller Honors Class. A few read their poems aloud and some of the students even came up to me afterward to read more of their work. Any of the students that were interested, I gave a card to and let them now they could contact me and ask questions later.

The last group was after lunch and the largest being closer to 50+ students. This was a challenge for me but I managed to get some engagement from the students. I felt that when more than one class of differing grades were in one room, there was a vulnerability and fear to express themselves aloud.

I did, however, learn a lot myself in this High School revisited. Poetry is an intimate and subjective art form. I prefer small groups of students over large ones. I liked the poem I read to them, “NIC”. A few students even got the meaning right away, which impressed me. And the poetry writing exercise worked well with the students that were engaged. In every group there was at least one or more students that were interested in poetry, whether they expressed it out loud or not. That is why I do what I do. Even if it touches only one person.

I look forward to the next group of students and will be prepared not to take their seeming nonchalance personally! I will leave you today with the poem I did read to the classes and hope you enjoy it as much as they did!

Nic

We met many
many years ago
in my youth
not knowing who or what I was
not caring about the warnings
I heard

Trying to be grown up
and cool
trying to fit in
somewhere
anywhere

And I found you

Over the years
we’ve been inseparable
even knowing
you were not good for me
even watching
as people died
from knowing you

I stuck with you
denying you would hurt me

And even when I knew
and even when I saw
the signs begin to show
you were hurting me
I could not let go

I tried to leave
you behind a number of times
but you were always there
as comfort and companion

In all those years I never thought
you were a friend
but now I know you were

I didn’t want you
as a friend
but in my mind
you were constant
available
invigorating

Some childhood friends
go on their way
you did not
with me

Never being able
to say no
to my detriment

But it is time
to part company

I will mourn you
leaving my life
I will miss you
knowing you
know me so well

But loving
the spirit inside me
and following that truth
sometimes includes
leaving old friends
behind

I will remember you
with fondness
and no regret

I will see you on the street
and remember
and be happy
we were friends
once
but no more.

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