Penning the Line Between Love and Hate

Last week we met on a Tuesday. I was happy to see the students; it had been too long. They had not forgotten about poetry though, as I requested.

For the day, the 6th graders were tasked with completing their villanelles which we had been working on for a few class sessions. To refresh the lesson, we read The House on the Hill by E. A. Robinson to remind us of the form and the importance of the refrains in a villanelle. We did a brief analysis of the piece. The students understood the theme of abandonment in the poem, and together we concluded that this place had grown old and empty over the years and that perhaps the speaker was a parent who had watched time pass, children grow older and a home become an quiet, broken old house. In the negative space, we assumed that it was once bright and boisterous, but no longer. It is a soft poem, and evokes a bit sadness, but it captured yet another lesson about writing about place.

The villanelles they wrote were to be about their favorite place in their home, their neighborhood or Chicago. Villanelles can be tough, but they did an amazing job selecting profound refrains and creating mood and tone. I have chosen to publish some complete and incomplete versions of the poems, doubting that the untrained reader will know the difference, but it worth noting, as some of the students surely grew tired and frustrated of the revision process. Still, they all worked really hard, and I am pleased with their resolve and the products we end with here.

The 7th and 8th graders tackled odes for the day. We read Ode to the Midwest by Kevin Young which flirts with the line between a love and hate for the Midwest. We talked about the ode’s characteristics of personification, their exaltation of the ordinary, and its many short lines that create what are usually lengthy poems. I asked the student to think about everyday things that they could not live without, speak directly to them, saying what they would say if someone asked them how they felt about the object. Their love letters to their cell phones, birthdays(quite clever) and a provocative look at the intersection of wealth and quality of life are below.

These are very different takes on the students’ relationships to the world, their environments and the people, places and things around them. Please enjoy.

6th Grade

Taniyah A.

The Love the hate
Chicago is a place with many different people
People plan to change their fate

Gangs are violent
The love the hate

When the love grows
Violence goes away
People plan to change their fate

Chicago is a place with many different people
The love the hate
People plan to change their fate

Poet Elijah
My Favorite Place

My Favorite place
Is my own
Is the best space

Where I can always be alone
I have books
My favorite place

My brother always calls me names
But everything is just the same
Is the best space

I have a TV
That I named Veve
My favorite place

Is the best space
My favorite place
Is the best space

Aniya C.
My backyard

My favorite place is my backyard
I play in my tent
I also look under the stars

I build myself a play kit
I close my eyes and dream very far
My favorite place is my backyard

I open my eyes and hear birds chirping
Owls going “owwww”
I also look under the stars

I think I saw a car
I hear my dogs barking from inside
My favorite place is my backyard

I go inside to get a drink
I close my eyes to think
I also look under the stars

It is a family affair
We really don’t care
My favorite place is my backyard
I also look under the stars

Jabar W.
Awkward Moments

The great city of Chicago is a wonderful place
Downtown with the bright lights out at night
The windy city was meant for that

Nonsense, out of control, when people dying back to back
Problems couldn’t be solved even after 24 hours
The windy city was not meant for that

The great city of Chicago is a wonderful place
The windy city was meant for that

Keyonna W.
My Room

My room is my fav place to chill out
I don’t have no one to kick me out
Without a doubt, I love my room

I’m glad I don’t have to share
Sometimes I can see myself partying
My room is my fav place to chill out

Sometimes when I get home I kick off my shoes
And just listen to the blues
Without a doubt, I love my room

My room is my fav place to chill out
Without a doubt, I love my room

7th Grade

Marjanay M.
Junk Food

Oh Junk Food,
I can’t live without you
When I have you,
its heaven

And when I don’t have you
It’s hell
It feels like you’re at the bottom
of a wishing well

Junk Food
Junk Food
Oh Junk Food,
Chips, Pop, Candy and more
It’s like walking through
A magical door

When we are together
We instantly change
The weather

Ice cream
Eating you is for goodness sake

It’s time to wrap up this poem
I’ll see you at lunch
As a matter of fact
I should have bought a whole bunch
Kanyeh M.
Someone Special

I’ve admired you
Ever since I met you last summer
I knew I like the way you talked
And how you twist your hair
When you’re nervous
Or when you’re scared,
Instead of screaming
You would punch or grab my arm
I like the way you talk
The sound of your voice
Is smooth like butter
I’ve admired how beautiful
Your smile was
And how you get mad for no reason
And how you could make the best
Of any problem
And how you never ask
For too much
But you still give a lot
I respect you
Because you’re honest and caring
You share
You might still be angry
But I still admire you
Someone special
Ziclaly D.
Oh Alejandro!

Alejandro is a cute baby
Sometimes he wiggles when
I change his diaper.

I know he is my baby brother
But I love him like my son.

He is my everything
And my life.
Sometimes he makes me
Happy or even smile.

I love when I change him
and I make an ugly face
and he laughs.

I love Alejandro

Nakiyah A.

Oh Chicago, what happened to you?

You never used to kill
But look now.
There have been so many killings.
What happened to you?

You were so nice
We used to sit on the porch
Without no trouble

Kids played outside without
getting hurt

But now, we can’t sit on the porch

Now-a-days, we have to say
Be safe and keep your head up

Let us be kids, and
let us play

May God be with us,
Each and every day

Let us reach the age of 21
Before we go through this

Makiya D.
Ode to May 14

On May 14, that’s when
someone new came into this world

That’s the day I got to meet
the person who was talking to me
from the outside

That’s the day I saw light
instead of dark

That’s the day I got to stretch my legs
and not be balled up

That’s the day I saw my sister
She was bigger than me
And I was a little scared

That’s the day I got to put
on some clothes for the first time

That’s when I went home and
saw lots of people
and I saw a sign saying
Welcome Home
That’s when I ate something
really good
Next thing you know
It all went black.

 8th grade

Damion R.

Oh, Money
I love mulla
Spend it
Get it right back
Enjoying life
Go on shopping sprees
Buy delicious food
Have fun
Spend time with family

I love money
Its part of life
Go outside
with friends
Play games a minute
Watch TV
Listen to music

Jessica V.
My Phone

Oh phone,
Without you
I don’t know what to do
I use you for homework,
Texting friends
And making calls.

I sleep with you
Put you under my pillow
If I lose you, I don’t know
what to do

You are the best
You could help me out
From not getting bored
When your battery is low
I run to get the charger
Make sure you are fully
full of battery
And start using you

I love your color
You are rose pink,
Your case shines
And you also help me
In an emergency



“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.