Guest Blog - Planting Seeds of Change: Poetry in Schools

Why not hear from the supporters and committee members that make Santa Cruz County's Alliance for Arts Education so great? Here's the first guest blog post from Magdalena Montagne, poet, teacher, and Santa Cruz Alliance for Arts Education member:

I walked into Susan Nunes’ fifth grade classroom at Mar Vista Elementary on a sunny winter’s day in November. I had been there the previous year as a freelance poetry teacher, and this year I was representing California Poets in the Schools on a seed grant from them—planting the seeds of poetry in the minds of the school administrators and young poets.

The 32 students’ response to the idea of poetry was incredibly enthusiastic. They seemed transfixed that a living, breathing poet existed, first of all, and the notion that a poet would come to their classroom seemed beyond their wildest expectations. I felt honored and so did they.

In our four hour-long sessions, we discussed topics such as imagery, personification, and poetic voice. We explored poems, both classic and contemporary. Part of each class was devoted to generating their own works. Writing was alternately a quiet and noisy time. Everyone shared their work afterward – and there was a lot to share, as some eager fifth graders wrote as many as four or five poems at a time. It was as if the faucet got turned on and they couldn’t stop flowing. We also worked on voice projection and articulation during– the performance of a poem.

One young student especially stands out in my mind. She had lost her grandfather just a few days before the first session. Throughout the four classes, she wrote touching poems about what he meant to her and attempted, I believe, to process his death through writing about it.

About a week after the last session, I received a big package in the mail from the teacher. The students had sent me handwritten thank you notes – all artistically crafted and colored, and many had written odes to me (in our last class we had read several of Pablo Neruda’s odes and written our own). I had never been the subject of an ode before, and this was a powerful testimonial. Additionally, one of the students confessed that they had never thought much of poetry, until our time together.

--Magdalena Montagne, poet, teacher, Santa Cruz Alliance for Arts Education member