Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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Poetry Resources

May 14, 2018

Wes McNair

During Poetry Month, former Maine’s Poet Laureate, Wes McNair launched a new poetry website for teachers and learners called The Lyric Moose.  If you’re looking for a resource that will help you teach or learn about free verse poetry and how to write about it, check out this compendium of six programs, with a wide range of interactive instruction, including videos, craft exercises, teaching assignments, author interviews and poem lists.

While visiting the site I found the resource 20 Maine Poets Read and Discuss Their Work compelling. The resource includes 20 short videos in which a diverse group of contemporary Maine poets read two poems apiece and explain their beginnings as poets, their influences, and their themes. Gibson Fay LeBlanc and Megan Grumbling are two of the 20 poets featured. For several years they have both provided workshops for the Commission’s Poetry Out Loud program.

 

“The website includes links to poetry projects for teachers that I’ve developed with Colby College Special Collections and Information Technology Services. There are six links in all, and three of them were sponsored in one way or another by the Maine Arts Commission.”

It is wonderful to see the impact that Wes continues to make on education in Maine and beyond. THANK YOU Wes for your contributions!

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Memorizing Poetry: Tributes and Memories

May 6, 2018

Carl Little and Memorizing Poems

Carl Little

I have served as the accuracy judge for Maine’s Poetry Out Loud competition on several occasions (not this year—the snow derailed my plans). Each time I hear those brave high schoolers present the work of Tony Hoagland, Linda Pastan, Langston Hughes, Wallace Stevens, and other great poets past and present, I am reminded of my own experiences with memorizing poetry—memories that are a mix of pleasure and pure fear.

My first recollection of learning verse goes back to elementary school in New York City in the 1960s. Every summer each student in the three senior classes (sixth, seventh and eighth grades) at the Buckley School was required to learn by heart several poems to be recited in the classroom upon returning to school in the fall, an obligation that put a small but significant damper on end-of-summer fun.

Just like the Poetry Out Loud contestants, we were given a group of poems from which to choose. Among my selections were “The Congo” by Vachel Lindsay and “On His Blindness” by John Milton. The latter I can still recite by heart. I loved the music of his words—“When I consider how my light is spent,” is the opening line—but also finding out that Milton went blind later in his life, which deepened my appreciation of this poem, so abstract yet so personal.

Flash forward to 1976. I had graduated from Dartmouth, moved back to New York City, and, as an English major, was desperate for some kind of employment. I took a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was posted to the Lehman Wing, on the Central Park side of the museum, a somewhat remote section of the sprawling complex.

To pass the time guarding Rembrandt’s portrait of the syphilitic art theorist Gerard de Lairesse and other art works, I decided to memorize poems, among them, William Carlos Williams’ delightful “Danse Russe,” in which the speaker dances naked before a mirror, asking “Who shall say I am not/the happy genius of my household?” Years later, a Mount Desert Island acquaintance, photographer Linn Sage, recounted how one day she came into one of the Lehman galleries and caught me practicing that poem.

A few years later, enrolled in Columbia’s MFA writing program, I took Derek Walcott’s “The English Pentameter Tradition” class. The West Indies-born poet, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, had all of us memorize poems by Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.

Walcott loved both poets dearly and highlighted their connection: when Frost moved to England with his family in 1912, the 40-year-old poet was looking for a fresh literary start to a career that had stalled in America. He met and became close friends with Thomas, a critic and budding poet. Frost found a London publisher for his first book, North of Boston, now considered a masterpiece of American literature. Thomas’s favorable appraisal of the collection—he called it “one of the most revolutionary books of modern times”—helped launch his newfound friend’s career. Interesting to note that Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” led Thomas to enlist in the British Army. He died in World War I.

Most of us in Walcott’s class were in our 20s and we were collectively petrified by his assignment, but after weak protestation, we gave in. I can’t recall what I memorized for Frost—maybe “Raking Leaves,” which my son James later learned by heart in elementary school—but for Thomas it was his poem “Rain.”Certain lines still ring in my head: “Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon.”

Martin Steingesser

The only Maine poet I know who presents his work from memory is the inimitable Martin Steingesser. At the second annual celebration of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s birthday at the Farnsworth Museum this past February 24th, he recited by heart one of her most famous poems, the sonnet “What lips my lips have kissed, and where and why.” It was, indeed, “by heart” that Steingesser gave us Millay’s bittersweet lines. “I cannot say what loves have come and gone”—nor could we.

I have given many readings of my own verse, but never presented it without the words in front of me. Inspired by those high school students and Steingesser, and wanting to be able to impress my grandchildren, who seem to be able to memorize a book after a single reading, I have decided to embark on memorization. I’m starting with “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats. Take a deep breath, Carl. Ready?  “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”

Thank you to Carl Little, Communications Manager, Maine Community Foundation, for providing this blog post. Carl is also a poet.

 

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Poets/Speak!

April 16, 2018

Bangor Public Library – April 26, 4:30 – 8:00 p.m.

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MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Brian Evans Jones

March 13, 2018

Teaching Artist – Poet

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Brian for sharing your story! Learn more about Brian at his WEBSITE. You can find Brian’s teaching artist profile on the Maine Arts Commission roster

Brian Evans-Jones is mainly a poet these days but also does creative writing. Brian has been teaching since 2005 and doesn’t have a favorite grade or age to teach. “They all offer something different and wonderful. I like to teach by excitement and discovery. I want students to be excited about the idea of writing before they begin, and then to discover what they’re capable of while they actually do it. I want the whole experience to be fun—though also serious fun, the way that kids’ games can be serious.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

That’s a hard question! I guess first of all because I get to see a lot of different ages and types of students, and touch a lot of different lives. Lately I’ve also realized it’s because I get to partner with many wonderful great teachers and teaching artists. And on a personal level, I like the flexibility: I could never see myself being happy in a regular job! 

Brian at Hermon High School, November 2017

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful arts education?

Thinking about creativity in general, I might say:

  • To be supported to take risks
  • To feel OK about failure
  • To learn the unique habits and (wholesome) props that scaffold your own personal creative process.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

Not being a regular teacher, I don’t often think about “Assessment.” But I do constantly assess how the class is going, how students and I are bonding, how well I am generating enthusiasm, how well my instructions are being understood and used, how well balanced my activities are between support and openness, how much effort students are putting in, how much they seem to be learning, and how keen they are to keep working. I can’t imagine teaching a class without monitoring those things constantly, and many more, but I don’t formalize them. I do frequently use the SWOT framework to assess how I think a class went and plan for the next one, though.

Brian at Hermon High School facilitating a workshop to help guide students working on Poetry Out Loud

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

People! Meeting cool people who do similar things and make me feel encouraged. Also getting to work on specific projects in partnership with other MALI people, like Kris Bisson, Lindsay Pinchbeck, and Tim Christensen.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

As an artist: winning the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers.

As a teaching artist: the fact that I do this at all, having jumped into the financial and professional unknown in order to do it. Also some big residencies I have run or am running, like working with 80 second graders for 2 weeks in South Berwick, ME, and leading a team of 4 TAs on a poetry residency with the 8th grade at Wells Junior High School.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

Isolation, which makes me less likely to find more work, and makes it harder to plan great classes. Collaboration and MALI connections work against this.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Leaving my role as a high school teacher, which didn’t suit me, to piece together a patchwork career, including being a teaching artist. It happened because I sought out any opportunities I could to get experience in the right areas.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

See the previous answer! Plus also:

  • Make connections
  • Take (some) chances—trust the creative process with your career just as you do when you’re making art. 

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Brian at the summer MALI institute leading a workshop on writing

That’ll be just enough to pay for college for my two kids by the time they’re ready to go, right? I wish I was even joking…

In a world where college didn’t cost so stupidly much, I would use the money to set up and fund a nonprofit to take poetry to places and people who need it but don’t get exposed to it: prisoners, the homeless, older adults, children in poorer areas, etc.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I should have ditched other work and done more teaching artist work sooner! It makes the most difference and is the most rewarding of the several things that I do.

NOTE: Brian traveled to Hermon High School and Van Buren District Secondary School in November 2017 to work with students with the Poetry Out Loud program that the Maine Arts Commission provides in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Brian is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster and is available to travel to schools and communities to provide poetry and creative writing instruction. 

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Multi-disciplinary Dance Performance

October 20, 2017

The Twenty

For more information please call Betsy Mclarkey Dunphy at 799.3273.

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Poetry Residency

April 27, 2017

South Berwick – Central School

This is being re-posted from http://www.brianevansjones.com/ with permission from Brian Evans-Jones. Brian can be reached at brian@brianevansjones.com

This week I finished the biggest project I’ve yet worked on as a teaching artist: teaching poetry to 80 second-graders at Central School in South Berwick, ME.

The residency spanned 11 days of teaching, plus an evening Showcase event, from the end of March to the middle of April. The aims were two-fold. First, to teach the second graders some important things about how to write poetry. But behind that, the goal was to use the writing of poetry to increase their overall confidence in themselves as writers and users of language.

Over the first 9 days, I helped them to draft 7 different poems using different tools. We started with group poems composed of lines beginning with repeated phrases. At this stage I introduced them to the idea of writing discrete sentences on strips of paper (Sentence Strips) which they then assembled into a poem, not only to make writing easier than starting with a blank page, but also to get them thinking about poetic lines. The Sentence Strips were also perfect for our first lessons in rewriting, when we added words to our Strips to make them more descriptive, thought hard about what order of Strips made the most sense, and looked at where we could insert new Strips to expand our ideas.

Here are some of those Strip poems in process:


We kept on using the sentence strips for poems built around verbs (an animal performing a mixture of real and impossible actions) and then metaphors (transforming an ordinary classroom object into many different things). Along the way we practiced using rhyme effectively. The last poem was a Personal Poem on a topic special to them, and this they wrote without the Strips. Finally, they chose their favorite poem for sharing, and worked on intensively on revising and editing it. The poems were shared with parents at the Celebration Night, when the students also worked with their parents to write new poems using some of the techniques they’d learned.

Here are just some of the poems and accompanying art, ready for display at the Showcase night.

As an extra bonus, one of the parents (Deb Cram) made a montage video of almost all the students reading a line or two from their poems, which you can view here. The poems will also be published in a chapbook along with student artwork, and there will soon be an after school Creative Writing group to help keep the writing going! Phew—now I understand why I was exhilarated and exhausted when we finished…

The residency was funded by the Marshwood Education Foundation, which funds projects in the Marshwood School District. We hope that the residency may have demonstrated sufficient value for the District to fund future annual second grade poetry residencies, although with budget issues everywhere, who knows what will happen.

As a teaching artist, this was a huge undertaking, working with a large group of fairly young writers for 12 consecutive days. I was tremendously conscious of how much the second grade teachers were giving me, trusting me with their students for so long, and allowing me to disrupt their well-oiled routines! From my point of view, the residency, while challenging at times (it was my first time managing classes with up to 40 second graders at once), was a great success. Not only did the students write very many wonderful poems, but the majority of them also enthusiastically grasped the idea of revising their writing, which is so important for their school writing careers. I know that several students who had struggled with literacy and writing produced poems that surprised and delighted their teachers and themselves. It’s too soon to say definitively whether the residency will have a significant long-term effect on the cohort’s performance as writers and users of language, but the signs are good. And the poems are great.

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Poetry in Washington County

December 14, 2016

POL

As part of Maine’s Poetry Out Loud program the Maine Arts Commission provided a learning opportunity for teachers and students in Washington County. Teaching artist Brian Evans-Jones went from school to school spending a half day at each school including several classes. Brian is a member of the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at HERE. At each school Brian provided a slightly different program that fit the needs of the students from each school. Calais, Washington Memorial, and Narraguagus High Schools participated in this first time project.

machiasBrian used a variety of instructional techniques to guide students in their learning around poetry and writing. He recited his own and others poems and students responded by answering two questions: What happened in the poem and what were the emotions? Students picked up on the emotions of the poem and the specific moments and poetic techniques that conveyed  the feelings. Brian taught a method to memorize called “chaining”. One key word per line to memorize those first, and then each line one by one. Brian led students through ways to convey emotions using voice—pitch, volume, pauses, speed, emphasis— and asked them to try out different ways to convey the emotional “hot spots” of the poem.

With one group Brian focused on writing poetry. He asked them to write The down words and phrases that were linked with an activity they really enjoyed doing. First they wrote things they might use, then where, when, and with whom it happened, and lastly how it made them feel. These were all on small pieces of paper. Then on longer strips they wrote a few words to describe or follow on from each of the first set of words. Then they changed the sequence of what they’d written to make a poem. Brian left with everyone’s poems “shaping up to be lovely”.

Brian also taught a smaller class for interested students where they each made a short free write about a memory and then selected phrases from it to be the backbone of a poem.

calaisI’m sure that you can tell from the description that Brian’s time spent teaching and supporting poetry in Washington county was a success. The Maine Arts Commission is so glad that they received a small amount of additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for Poetry Out Loud this year to provide this opportunity. We’re looking forward to the feedback from students and teachers to get a clear picture of the impact.

There are 45 Maine high schools participating in Poetry Out Loud program. Each school has scheduled a school based program to determine who will represent them at the Northern or Southern Maine Regional Finals. The State Finals are taking place at Waterville Opera House on March 13, 3 p.m. and is open to the public at no cost.To learn more about the Poetry Out Loud program in Maine please CLICK HERE. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education, Maine Arts Commission at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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