I Am Poetry

          Today the young writers embarked on a journey of self-discovery
through poetry. The morning began with a discussion of what poetry is, how to create memorable sensory details, and the impact of word choice.

           The writers were eased into poetry, first writing mad-lib poems about what happens to them on the longest day of the year. Some of their confessions were quite shocking!

My sternum has shape-shifting powers

I am decapitating like acid rain

The cleaver and the teddy bear Dougie under the stairs.

I feel like Danny DeVito, but I’m really Shrek

           Visiting author, Jen Harris, further channeled the group’s enthusiasm for poetry. As an renowned slam poet, Jen Harris has served the writing community in many ways: founding and hosting the Kansas City Poetry Slam, advocating for spoken word poetry as a form of peer-based mental health therapy, delivering a TED talk, and authoring the poetry books Slammed and Unconfirmed Identities, to mention a few.

            Jen started her visit by performing her poem “Shower
Curtain.” The reading was as honest as it was vulnerable, and her genuineness inspired the young writers, who contemplated different aspects of their identity through a poetry exercise entitled “I Am!” Essentially, each line of the poem began with the assertion “I am” and continued with a response to one of Jen’s prompts. Some of the prompts included family sayings, inanimate objects, what feels divine or sacred, birthplace, traditional food, and family legends.

           The writers did not disappoint. With each reading, they became braver and shared personal details with their peers. Some of them concerned family while others focused on the self and what they personally valued. The exercise forced the writers out of their shells, encouraging them to reach within and find their truths. It was humbling to watch them grow as a community and as individual poets.

I am from a family that steals each others’ chargers

I am from pine tree and rose

I am from a hidden book under the bed and a small box in the closet

           After a few games and lunch, the writers gathered in one of the Beach Museum’s galleries. They were each asked to pick a work of art and imagine the life story of the person (or animal) in it. Once the writers chose a piece of art and decided what the story behind it was, they paired up with another writer who then wrote what happened next.  

Our instructors supporting the writers while they read their work aloud

           The collaborative exercise encouraged the writers to produce prompts for one another and forced them to imagine their given characters’ attributes. Utilizing precise sensory details along with personal information about their characters, the authors were able to come up with intriguing, compelling short stories.

           Every group shared their work in front of the large group, earning applause for their creativity. It was interesting to see how the individual writers interpreted their peers’ initial prompts.

           The development from the mad-lib exercise to the collaborations was astonishing! Although the authors had already written four poems and a few short stories, they gathered in their small groups at the end of the day to do even MORE writing. While I can’t reveal any specifics yet, I can say some of the masterpieces written in and out of the galleries today rival the artwork surrounding the writers.

Underrated Uranium excited about the day’s accomplishments!

Local Dreamers dreaming

T-Minus 7 use the great outdoors to fuel their inspiration

           I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week will bring with the amount of creativity exhibited at the Beach today! Our young writers are blooming into fully fledged authors before our very eyes, and our staff is grateful to watch them gain confidence with each exercise. To hear what the writers have been working on, come to our reading at the Mariana Kistler Beach Museum on Friday, June 22nd at 2pm!

—Adrianna, Program Assistant  

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