“There’s no place like home”: The Secrets of Poetry

Yesterday, the writers explored worlds outside of our own. Today we brought things back down to Earth by looking someplace much closer—home.

The question to start our day was “When someone says ‘Kansas’ what’s the one thing you think of?” Though most of our young writers are from the state, their answers mirrored some of those you might get across the country. Popular responses included The Wizard of Oz, farms, tornadoes, cows, and wheat fields. As we transitioned into thinking about and writing poetry, this question helped the young writers begin considering what both a home, and a poem, are made of.

To ease ourselves into a day full of poetry, we began with a Mad Lib Poem that the writers composed by filling in categories and putting them into a template about “The Longest Day of the Year.” This exercise worked wonders in getting our writers up and willing to share their poems first thing in the morning.

During the morning, we were also lucky to have our first guest writer—Jacque Boucher. Jacque’s a poet who lives and works in Kansas. She serves as the poetry editor Lammergeier Magazine, and her writing has been featured in a variety of literary magazines. She also works as an instructor at K-State.

Jacque begins her lesson by talking about the joys and fears of writing poetry.

Jacque allowed us to continue thinking about both poetry and home by engaging in a dialogue with our writers. She encouraged them to “think about images that evoke the place where you’re from” while they composed a variety of descriptions using all five senses; plus, she pushed us even further so that we’d meditate on other constructs that affect our daily lives, like time and movement. Once lists were assembled, the writers sorted through them to write a poem titled “I Am From.”

“Get a little weird with it,” Jacque advised before setting the writers off to work on their individual poems.

 “Frankenstein yourself a poem.” —Jacque Boucher

Program Director Katy Karlin works with Kaseton on his poem.

Several writers finished their “I Am From” poems and volunteered to share with the group.

“I am from the kisses goodnight and the begging for one more hug”

As we reached the end of our time with Jacque, we worked together on completing one finale “I Am From” poem that could represent every member of our workshop. Each writer picked a favorite line from their poem to share with the group and write out on the easel sketchpad.

Some homes sounded very much like that projected picture of Kansas: I am from fields of flowing wheat and flocks of flapping ducks.

Some homes sounded more distinctive and maybe less expected: I am from a place where 25 languages are bounced around.

“I am from the place that few want to go, but that makes it Kansas, and that makes it home.”

During the afternoon, we evolved from the “I Am From” poems to a simple “I AM” poetry exercise, where our instructors worked within their small groups to guide their writers in brainstorming lists that developed into similes and metaphors.

Instructor Dustin Vann and his group—The Aviators—found a cozy place in the museum to work on their poetry.

Like Monday, today we once again had a chance to get a little crafty, but this time it was working on “found” poetry and “blackout” poetry. If you have some spare magazines, newspapers, or cookbooks at home, you, too, can experiment with these kinds of poetry. Both forms allow writers to work with something hands-on, rather than staring at a blank sheet of paper, which can be intimidating.

It was clear throughout the day, however, that our creative young writers are capable of deep, emotional thinking and can translate that beautifully into their writing. This was no less true when working in a more craft-oriented form.

Pyper works on some blackout poetry.

The afternoon wrapped up with one final question for our writers: “What would you like someone to know about your hometown?” Several pointed out that, yes, it’s cold and snowy here, but we do take The Wizard of Oz “to the next level” and the people around us can be pretty cool, too.

So today we learned that maybe there’s no need to go somewhere over the rainbow to find inspiration to write about. Just like Dorothy and company, we used our brains to reveal what was in our hearts, even if it took a little bit of courage. Even when we’re not in Kansas anymore, and we let that yellow brick road take us where it will, we’ll still know that “there’s no place like home.”

—Noelle Braaten, Program Assistant

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