Writing in Place: City of Wind Edition

March 10, at DuBois Elementary, was an interesting day. The classes I worked with were self-contained, so I joined the 6th graders in a different classroom than our traditional meeting space (which has mobile work-stations, aka desks on wheels). Last Friday they sat in rows, but seemed to miss the mobility they are used to having in our regular poetry classes. It took a bit more time to get them settled and going, but then everyone got their poetry folders, their drafts from the past two weeks, their new villanelle template, and the poem for the day. We read “Chi-City, My City”, a villanelle (posted below) that I wrote specifically for them. We identified the two refrains and the rhyme schemes present and prepared to revise the latest version of the villanelle and transfer the new one onto the template.

Due to a pending rehearsal for an assembly, the students got a brief interval to ponder approaching their revisions. It has been a bit difficult to get the 6th graders to understand the difference between revising and re-doing, and not to look at this process as a punishment, but we are getting there. More and more, students are learning that you don’t always knock out the best poem on the first attempt. I find them asking for more time to continue working on their poems, and towards the end of class, I see them working feverishly to finish what they started.

I have posted two more examples of the 6th graders’ “excellent starts” below, as well. We will finally complete the villanelles after the students complete their rounds of spring testing. I implored them not to forget about poetry while we are away, and Shariel promised me they wouldn’t.

Because of the self-containment, I only got a glimpse of the 7th graders when I peeked in their classroom to say hello, but because of this, I got the rare opportunity to sit with my small group of 13 eighth graders. Together, we formed a learning circle and discussed the dense, but powerful poem, Declaration, by Phillip B. Williams. We discussed mood, tone, setting, and personification, and really got a chance to unpack the ideas there. When asked about Williams’ attitude towards Chicago. Talleda made the poignant remark that he feels “unwelcome.” Along with the frustration, the 8th graders recognized the details, the familiarity in the piece. There is the Sears Tower—Yes! I am passing the disdain for naming rights down to another generation—the Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Sharks Fish & Chicken, the West Side…

I recommended that the students begin their place poems about Chicago with I am from…, I was raised in…or City of…, the way that Williams began. It seemed difficult for the students to express a love for or even describe a place so plagued and embattled as of late, but they express themselves and their very complex feelings about this city—home. The too remember a better Chicago that welcomes us all with open arms. Some of the poems are difficult to enjoy this week because of their themes, but please listen. They are necessary.

Chi-City, My City
By Chanell Ruth

Where politics reign and the rich have the power
I was raised on cobblestone, numbers and names
I was born in between redbrick and sunflowers

Hold the world in my hands from atop the Sears Tower
see that each block is different, no two corners the same
where politics reign and the rich have the power

When summertime came we spent every waking hour
outside, at the pool, at the park, until street lights came
I was born in between redbrick and sunflowers

Even with violence and pain, I won’t let my love sour
for my city. The killing, poverty, and destruction can change
where politics reign and the rich have the power

These blocks, these streets, these neighborhoods are ours
We must stand up for peace and the futures we claim
I was born in between redbrick and sunflowers

A movement will grow from the love that we shower
Youth and families will rise up and change the game
where politics reign and the rich have the power
I was born in between redbrick and sunflowers

6th Grade

Jeremiah M.
Love Being in my Bedroom

I love to be in my room so I can chill
I take naps as soon as I get in bed
I love to watch comedies on Youtube
Go on Netflix and lay down and watch a movie

Malachi L.

My favorite city is Georgia its creative
I like when we go places instead of going home
The Best place I liked was Georgia
My dad took all his sons and my mom took all her daughters

It was fun, Imaginative and exploring
And that was a good place besides Olympus Park
We had fun there, we even shot a dart
I will never get lost like my brother did

Even last time when we went to Golden Corral
My brother didn’t want to eat the cotton candy they had for sale

8th Grade

 Ashley A.
Chicago Streets

Chicago, Chicago, what have you done?
You took away my cousin by playing with guns,
The young ones will see what the old ones have done
Wondering if they can go outside and still have fun

Chicago, Chicago, you’re not the same
Why have you changed?
And who are the ones to blame?

Chicago, Chicago, where have you been?
Did you fly away with the heavy wind?

Chicago, Chicago, Why you disrespecting me?
Is it because I’m so quiet, so you think
you can get the best of me?

Chicago reveals it true colors
Gunshots, traffic and trains are the reason
I sleep under covers
Chicago just needs to recover
In My Neighborhood

From stones to parks
From footsteps to barks
From fruit, groceries to Dollar Tree
Things in the neighborhood that I see

The smell of chicken and Chinese
Blown in the air
Gives me a feeling I can share
These are the things that surround me

Every day I ride my bike
These are the things I see
People on their hike
And chicken, Chinese, fruit and Dollar Tree

Kaitlin K.

The City of Chicago is a bad place
So many kids with a sad face
Innocent people getting shot
Losing their lives on the spot
Violence and drugs need to stop

Erial M.

I am from Chicago,
An it aint how it used to be.
Every now and then an innocent
Child is sent into the penetentiary
And they’re only in elementary

City of Chicago, where mothers
Are beginning to be overprotective
Because they’re afraid of that feeling
When the doorbell rings
and it could be a detective

Cordell P.

City of wild animals and people
Bodies dropping and blood dripping
Fights turn serious so people pull out needles
In Chicago, you don’t want to get caught slipping

The city is full of anger and power
The police killing Blacks, its so sad
Chicago makes us seem like some cowards
Jessica V.
The City of Chicago
I am from the city of Chicago
And you have done really good
And bad things

I appreciate you for helping my parents
with their jobs and I don’t appreciate
all the violence you have done
in the City of Chicago

Guns flying around
and gangs all around.

Chicago is not the same,
Chicago has changed.

Garbage on the floor
and graffiti on the trains
NaKayla W.
Harvey World

I was born at Ingalls Hospital in Harvey
I was raised in Harvey
Harvey is a very dangerous place
You can’t step in front of your house
without getting hurt
you cant want to the park
without getting snatched
there’s too much going on in this world
there are lots of fights everywhere you look
grown-ups getting killed in front of little kids
Harvey is not a great place
But hey, that’s where I’m from
And I can’t change it
Common W.
Where I Lived
I am from the West Side, I forgot
what street
Over there was violence
When I was there
They gave me a nickname
My nickname was KING
I never knew why
But I think its because
I’m a Leo
I moved from place to place
West, North, South, East



“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.