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Writing to Perform

Thursday, April 2, 2015
poetry class
Teacher Whitney Wood developed the poetry program in partnershipwith the Poetry Society. Above, Ms. Wood (r) and Charif Shanahan (c) of PSA observe as poet Ama Codjoe (l) works with grade-eight students.

This special evening is the culmination of a trimester-long collaboration between Harlem Academy and the Poetry Society of America. The innovative workshop model brings professional poets to Harlem Academy’s middle school classrooms to lead college-style seminars. Over the course of six weeks, each poet works one-on-one and in small groups with students, leading them through the creative process of writing, revising, critiquing, and performing original works.

All middle school students participate. The workshop develops critical skills, building students' vocabulary and sharpening their use of language and structure. Equally important, by connecting them to working poets in New York for three consecutive years, it helps our students to understand the skills, habits, and work ethic needed to write at a professional level. The annual performances synthesize this creativity, effort, and joy into an intimate event that is truly special for our school community.

“I love the poetry unit and performances,” says eighth grader Atiana Monteiro. “The visits from the guest poets get kids that think poetry isn’t for them to find joy in it. Some realize that they actually love it. The performances bring us all together and show the bond between the teachers, parents, and kids at Harlem Academy.”

Enjoy the student work below.

Excerpts from Ode to an Apple
by Yarelis Nuñez, Class of 2016

On a June day,
Sweater weather day,
I can sink my teeth
into your red skin
I feel your cold, sweet
liquid.
My taste buds rise
like the texture
of a quince.
Sometimes you come
with more beauty than usual
That beauty is one single,
green leaf
that you,
Apple,
have taken
for yourself.

This program is supported through a grant to the Poetry Society from Kim Bendheim and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.