Poetry is a Power

Storme Webber, Park Orchard Elementary

The moments I most treasure as a WITS teacher are those where students take their own power and voice to heart, and poetry lifts from them like birds.

Untitled
by Ha-Kahla Davis
I am like a flower from the ground.
I am like ashes from the wood.
I am a diamond shiny and bright.
I am paper from a tree.
I am water deep in the sea.
I am a cloud in the sky.
I am wind clearing the area.
I am a key to defeat demons.
I am a seed to be me.

Ha-Kahla Davis writes a meditation in the form of the poem above. Her theme is transformation and its power is undeniable. Poetry creates a space for this flight, a place where the deepest thoughts and dreams of the student can find home. There are no tests, there is no standardization, there is only encouragement to dream more freely. In this way I aim as a teacher to create an atmosphere of conceptual freedom. Of course I encourage the student to follow their inspirations and questions as far as possible, and to apply skillful means of revision intended to polish the work. The process offers many revelations along the way and is incredibly rewarding.

Writing from a prompt shared by Aaron Counts this poet, Weang Weang, uses his words to define himself and affirm his own beauty. This work was very profound for him, as we felt when we began preparing for its performance. I watched the transformation as he moved from a shy and unsure young poet somewhat in awe of his words, to a confident and powerful one who is letting the world know exactly who he is.

My Skin
by Weang Weang 
My skin is like shadows on the ground
That  keep you cool when it’s hot
My skin is like sweet chocolate cookies
My skin is like crows
Flying in the sky naturally
My skin is like the nights when you dream
Sweet dreams and not sour
My skin is like black labels
My skin is like juicy olives
My skin is like soft panda skin
My skin is like dark knights armor
My skin is like a black tuxedo
My skin is like ants marching from one place to another
My skin is like a fast furious and sneaky puma
My skin is like sweet hot cocoa
When I’m happy I taste like gumdrops
When I’m happy I smell like fresh pears
My feeling is creative and powerful
When I dream I see music filling people’s hearts
Just cause I’m dark like the night sky
Doesn’t mean I can’t shine like the bright stars
So think before you speak next time cause
This is the way I am.

I work with students who face challenges of class, dislocation, cultural biases and others. Poetry is a power that I share with them, it is a safe and nurturing place where they can discover words to name themselves and express their dreams and emotions. As Audre Lorde told us: “…poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams  toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

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