A few weeks ago, the wonderful UPE English professor Zaira Cavalcanti asked me to bring some short poems to her evening class on Reading and Composition. Inspired, I spent a few hours searching through some of my favorite poems, like “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams.
I had a vague idea that I wanted this project to culminate in student-produced poetry, but at that point I had no conception of how brilliant the results would be. After reading and analyzing the poems I brought to class, I explained to the students a few different possible forms for their own poems: haiku, acrostic, found poem, etc. I told them that if they wanted to use their own form, they should feel free—having no major expectations for this option.
The day that the students read their poems sticks out in my mind as one of the most inspiring I have yet experienced here. Looking back, I realize that I was silly to forget how powerful a tool poetry is for students who are learning to express themselves in a language. The malleability of a poem is such that students can lose their preoccupations about grammar and correct structure: the most important thing is simply to communicate a message in whatever way works. I was blown away by the depth and creativity of the poems that the students created; even those who struggle with English in other forms (like speaking) came to class with beautifully and creatively written pieces.
Below are two examples. I hope to use the 20 poems that the students created in a publication of English writing by students from the whole department, to be finished before the end of the year.