110 per Cento effort

Hard to believe, but we’ve reached the conclusion of another residency at Skinner West. As is usually the norm, I first wrapped up some brief bits regarding everything we learned to date—including myself, since I’m always gaining new perspectives via the concerns, thoughts, preoccupations, and interests of the students, which of course changes every year—before we discussed our last selection: one of my poems. I’m often asked if I’ll eventually bring in my own work, and the end of a residency is the best place (and time) to do this. Also, as I frequently remind the students, when they have specific questions about a poem, “It’s too bad we can’t ask the poet,” even though the poet might just as well reply: “What do you think?” This gives them the opportunity to ask the author directly. The poem is from my newest book, Muse, Um, a series of ekphrastic poems, and I took this as an opportunity to also give them an outgoing ‘stealth prompt’ by incorporating analysis of my personal writing process when approaching this unique literary device.

The conversation was scintillating, as always, but we didn’t linger for too long before seguing to their last writing assignment—participating in the creation of a class poem, or cento. As the Academy of American Poets defines, “From the Latin word for ‘patchwork,’ the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.” The process involved students individually musing on creating a single line that best describes their feelings about poetry. Once they were ready, they queued up and their lines were recorded randomly, which never fails to result in poems that offer unique juxtapositions, serendipitous echoes, and most of all, honest and heartfelt revelations.

Thank you to the teachers who welcomed me into their rooms and to the students who fully embraced the art of writing poems.

Ms. Kawa’s Room, 4th Grade

Poetry is as beautiful and mysterious as the universe.
Poetry is like a scene coming out of a paper.
Poetry is bouncy and unexpected with twists and turns.
Poetry is like a big ball of emotions being smaller and bigger by the second.
Poetry is a wave, made of water droplets, each a poem.
Poetry is as vast as the Sahara desert.
Poetry is as unique as a snowflake.
Poetry is as emotional, creative, and relaxing as a normal human.
The bird of my thoughts flew over poetry’s nest.
When writing a poem is like expressing deep thoughts more easily.
Poetry is anything and can be everything.
Poetry is like reading an unfinished story.
Poetry is like a strong punch until you realize what it means.
Poetry is like a new discovery; as nothing before.
Some mistakes are made. That’s alright, that’s okay.
Poetry is like spreading my imagination all around the globe.
Poetry is like a vast, open ocean.
Poetry is a paradise.
Poetry is like a whole museum of words and feelings.
Poetry is as wild as a circus.
Poetry is diamonds made out of stone.
Poetry is contributing to an elegant sentence.
Poetry is like a diamond shimmering in the desert sands: you find it and poof! It disappears.
Poetry is an art where you can express anything like emotions.
Poetry is like a castle: it has many parts and when put together, it’s a work of art.

Ms. Ball’s Room, 4th Grade

Poetry is as fluid as a graceful river.
Poetry is like a sad crow.
Poetry is like a bunch of emotions in one bottle.
And then I say goodbye to poetry for right now.
Poetry is as different as the stars.
Poetry is as bold as gold.
Poetry is like a big maze: hard to get out of.
Poetry is a very fun activity to me.
Poetry is like my whole mind.
Poetry is as warm as the sun.
Poetry should feel as light as the blue sky.
Poetry is like a river with words that have many different emotions.
Poetry raises words that amazes.
Happy hungry water rain water bottle.
Poetry is as big as the universe.
Poetry is as happy as the sun.
Poetry is like blossoms falling off a tree.
Poetry is like hugging a teddy bear.
Poetry is like a plant growing.
Sometimes when I read poetry, I become happy; I also find poetry very mysterious.
Poetry is as big as the sky.
I love poetry and I wish it never left.
Poetry gives me some things, some poems.

Mr. O’Brien’s Room, 4th Grade

Poetry gives me an amazing feeling.
Poetry is like a happy sun rising in the morning.
Poetry is as cool as ocean water.
Poetry is like an excitement of words.
Poetry is the beating heart of 1000 words.
Poetry makes me feel a little confused.
Poetry is funny, good as sleeping, poetry is like a sunny day.
Poetry makes me feel like it’s telling me to join his world.
Poetry is a beautiful form of art.
Poetry makes me feel happy and makes me laugh.
Poetry makes me feel happy like a summer day.
Poetry to me is infinity.
Poetry makes me feel like an umbrella in the rain.
Poetry is like a wave crashing in the water.
Poetry is a school with no rules.
Poetry is like a hummingbird spreading its wings for the first time with freedom.
Poetry is relaxed and sleeping like a newborn hummingbird.
Poetry is like an adventure.
Poetry is like a peaceful breeze in the air.
Poetry feels like a peaceful ocean with big waves.
Poetry is as weird as a fish.
Poetry is like a butterfly coming from a cocoon.
Poetry is joyful like a field trip.
Poetry is everything, it is funny, nice, and confusing.

Mrs. Johnson’s Room, 4th Grade

Poetry makes me feel like a fire burning in the blue sky.
Poetry is diamonds making beautiful sounds of words.
Poetry is like a thunderstorm in your heart.
Poetry is like hot sand on a nice day.
These are words buzzing like angry bees.
Poetry is like a chilly breeze in the park.
Poetry is like a cloud and a rainbow mixing.
Poetry is like an ocean, so vast and unexplored; it is filled with endless possibilities.
Poetry is as beautiful and graceful as a butterfly that just came out of its cocoon.
Poetry is as calm as a breeze.
Poetry is like a beautiful bluebird soaring through the sky.
Poetry is like a lion eating meat, but instead, words.
Poetry is as unexpected as magic.
Poetry is like roaring beasts: fun, fierce, inspiring.
Poetry is as bright as the sun shining brightly on us.
Poetry is as happy as a monkey eating a million bananas.
Poetry is the sparkle of a diamond.
Poetry is hungry, crazy, and funny.
Poetry is like a beach: it makes you feel happy.
Poetry is cooler than the coolest person on earth.
Poetry is funny, weird, and shocking of thoughts.
Poetry is like a room full of words and adjectives.
Poetry makes me feel emotional, happy, relaxed, and calmed down.
Poetry is like making new stuff that pops up in your head and you enjoy writing it.
Poetry is sad, mad, dark, rad.
Poetry is like a big galaxy full of stars.
Poetry makes me as creative as a blank canvas.



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.