The Poet’s Craft Blog

If Springer School Was a Poem

Springer School is a Cincinnati treasure. For more than 45 years, Springer School and Center has carried out its mission to empower students with learning disabilities to lead successful lives. In November, I got to see the process up close when I wrote poems with Springer’s middle school students.  Using Sara Holbrook’s fabulous teaching poem, “If I Were a Poem” as an example, we talked about the power of poetry to let readers experience the world as the poet did, through images using the five senses. And then, of course, we expressed our own poetic powers on the page (and in some cases, directly onto the computer screen.) The following is a composite of lines from all seven classes I visited:

If We Were Poems

If I were a poem
I would be the clickety-clack
of a speeding steam train
leaving the station.
If I were a poem
I would be a starry night pouring down
on your paper like a jar of fireflies
you are setting free.
If I were a poem
I would be a cake
and when someone blows out my candles
they will become older.
I would be a rack of ribs
and live at Montgomery Inn.
I would be the taste of BeanBoozled®
because you never know
what you’re going to get.
If I were a poem
I would not leave you on a battlefield.
I would show you how
to travel time through time.
If I were a poem
I would be the swirling of the tornado.
I would be a basketball, the swish sound
as the crowd goes wild.
I would be a hawk with a secret poem
for the world to hear.
If I were a poem
I would make everyone laugh.
I would be a computer running my code
as you mindlessly type on my keys.
If I were a poem,
I will make you have chills up your spine
when you dip your feet in the pool.
If I were a poem
I would be the book
you do not want to put down.

Springer School Middle School Students
with Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

What would you do if you were a poem?

To read more about my visit to Springer, click here.

This is my last post of the year! If you would like to hear more about what I have been up to, and recharge your own creative juices, check out  Kelly Thomas’ Renew Series, featuring ten writers and others who will share our insights + personal experiences around everything from optimizing your creative practice, productivity hacks, publishing and everything in between. Interviews are with Magdalena Waz, Teri Foltz, Stacy Sims, Michael Winkfield, Andrea Scarpino, Katie Titi, Aimee Nezhukumatahil, Jenny Tosner, Manuel Iris and me! They run through December 20. (Mine will be released on December 18. You can sign up here: (it’s free to join + participate.)

After the beginning of the year, look for a series of blogs about the writing process, many focused on how I wrote my latest book of poems and prose, Palindrome, written in response to my mother’s dementia.

I hope to see you in the New Year!

Pauletta

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I am From Artsy Fartsy Saturdays

Where are you from? I have led former Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon’s “I am from” writing activity with dozens of groups now, from preschool students to seniors, and I always learn something new. Last month I had the privilege of working with Artsy Fartsy Saturdays, the arts non-profit/ministry Cathy Barney and friends do with neighborhood kids in subsidized housing in Milford. Artsy Fartsy is celebrating 5 years of vibrant creative community by developing a book about their journey, with the assistance of ArtsWave, Dos Madres Press and a whole slew of great volunteers. And, of course, the talented young people themselves. More information can be found here  and here , but first take this sneak peek at Artsy Fartsy’s creative minds at work!

We Are From Artsy Fartsy

I’m from where people
care about how they look
and girls’ hair is always wrapped up.
I am from basketball—I am a forward
who dominates the paint.
I’m from Pike Street.
It smells good and it looks good
and it’s quiet.
I am from the big tree outside.
I heard leaves falling.
I’m from the falling of leaves
and the smell of trees,
from the shining sun on glistening water,
with a turtle walking on dried leaves.
I am from animation and vanilla,
the smell of pumpkin spice latte
and the taste of chocolate chip cookies
dipped in milk.
I’m from touching my stuffed animals
and how soft they are.
I’m from where everyone is active
and the girls are always full of drama.
I am from Idaho.
I am from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas,
California, Colorado, Connecticut…
I am from no limits.
I am from multiple lifestyles and adventure.
I am from flowers and leaves that blow about,
from the laughs and jokes of my family,
that fall from the family tree.
I am from knowing how to say Thanksgiving
in sign language.
Sometimes I feel sad,
but no matter what,
I can’t wait to see what happens
next in the adventure of life.
I am from Milford, Ohio,
and I love flowers, cats and dogs.
This is where I am from.

The Writers of Artsy Fartsy Saturdays
(with Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel)

Note: Check out “I am From” poems from across the country and submit your own here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where We’re From

I had the privilege last month of working with the poets and performers who make up WordPlay Cincy’s Scribe Poetry Team.  Led by spoken word artist, Desirae Hosley, Cincy Scribes is a positive, upbeat community to explore identity, culture, current events and the media through poetry and creative self-expression. I loved their commitment to words—and to each other. Check out all of WordPlay’s work on their website. Here’s the poem we made.

We Are From WordPlay

Where are you from?
you ask.
I am from tears and mess and compromise.
I am from Cincinnati, the land of granite,
from sunken eyelids and bony hips.
I am from those places caught
between past and present lies,
from the split moment terrors
I get when I think of how my rapist is free.
I am from the powerful words
my mother made sure were in my lungs
since she knew that with the color of my skin,
people wouldn’t listen when I had to speak.
I am from a place where an orange runs a country—
no tea, no shade, but isn’t that funny.
I am from a crowd surf
of different hands and ideas.
In this beautiful fictional far off place,
every day is a gift to live and grow,
borders dissolved and no one owns the land.
I am from sticky rice and vinegar,
from teaching fish to dance,
from individuality and the correlation
between different and unique.
I am from the crack in the picture frame
that lets you reach inside to touch it.

WordPlay Cincy Scribes: Anais, Cat, Daphne, Keshawn, Lilly, and Sol
September 16, 2017
with Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

(Look for our poem, too, on the I am From Project’s Facebook Page.  This national project, co-founded by former Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon, aims to build a quilt, a scroll, a multimedia display, a swell of voices, a collection of poems “in celebration of the diversity and beauty of who we are.”)

I will take this opportunity, too, to share a little about “where I’m from” in my tenure as Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate! As I enter my final six months in this role, I invite you to view a list of all we have done together during this time, with links to the many poems co-created with Cincinnati’s writers, here.

Writing Among the Trees

What better way to spend the first full day of fall but among the trees! Thanks to everybody who came out to Everbody Let’s Write! at Everybody’s Treehouse, and to Ellen Austin-Li for sharing her lovely poem on her blog, and letting me share it here: House of Trees. Perhaps there will be time for an early spring repeat before my tenure as Cincinnati Poet Laureate ends on April 1, 2018.

Where We Are From: A poem by Art4Artists

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to write with a fine group of artists at Dunham Recreation Center, just about a year after my first visit to the to the center’s afterschool program.  Founded by Arnelle Dowin 2006, Art4Artists is a group of novice, semi-professional and professional women artists who meet regularly to support each other’s creative endeavors and explore new techniques and ideas. For more information and to join Art4Artists, please call the Dunham Center at 513-251-5862. The group is filled with talented practicing and retired art teachers, artists and arts enthusiasts. And some fine writers, too! We used former Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon’s prompt, “I am from,” and will be sending our group creation off to her  “I AM FROM project,” which aims to build a quilt, a scroll, a multimedia display, a swell of voices, a collection of poems in celebration of the diversity and beauty of who we are.”

We Are From: Art for Artists, 2017

I am from a blank canvas,
from the typewriter set up
in my mother’s kitchen,
from bright colored fabric and shiny beads,
from the country attic where
obsolete treasures lived,
from the vegetable garden in the summer,
from a hand gliding over big boards,
flour dust flying in the air.
I am from that girl,
the one who called herself
writer, artist, gardener, cook,
from the space she held to grow into.

It is like a trail through my memories,
which shoots straight and sharply
through my town, my life, my thoughts.
I am from struggling children
and a nation divided,
from tall scary people all in black,
in white.
So long ago, it seems familiar.
The streets are filled with too many ghosts.
What a strange journey through time.

I am from a life reinvented,
floating in and out of fog and clarity
and plunging in again,
from a long hard slog to make my way
through scrambled streets with cul-de-sacs,
from a towering blue spruce
that mocks my journey.
I am from many steps,
the ones I tumbled down
grabbing life, reclaiming fears,
pursuing and abandoning perfection.

I am from the nest of peace
I have made of my home,
from the joy of dirt and rocks,
the delight of sun and moon,
from quiet Friends and deep meditation,
from the “see you later, welcome home”
barking of the dogs,
from the sweet shade of the same old trees.

All in all, a pretty good life.
I am here.
Now in my 50s,
my 60s,
my 70s,
80s.
Unreal.

 

By Art4Artists Participants: Sue Brungs, Pat Bruns, Mo Conlan, Carole Douglas, Arnelle Dow, Mary Hennigan, Vivian Kline, Sally Murray, Pat Ostenkamp and Carolyn Stewart with Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel.
Dunham Recreation Center
August 15, 2017
Composed by Pauletta Hansel

Art for Artists

What’s up next for the Poet Laureate (you may ask)? Everybody Let’s Write at Everybody’s Treehouse in Mt Airy Forest, Ohio’s only wheelchair accessible treehouse, on Saturday September 23 from 10-noon. More info here and on Facebook.

Clark Montessori Takes a (Sonnet) Hike

If you happened to be driving around Hyde Park on April 10, you might have seen a swarm of students with notebooks roaming the streets. That was teacher Andrea Rotter’s Creative Writing Class doing a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Walk! The poem that follows is composed of lines each of us wrote as we wandered through the neighborhood. We hope this inspires you to write your way through your own or any of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. Click here to read other examples of Cincinnati Walking Sonnets by other poets. Instructions for composing your own Cincinnati Walking Sonnet can be found here.

Keep an eye out for an announcement for a “Cincinnati Streetcar Sonnet” workshop on some steamy July or August Sunday—an air-conditioned version of the Walking Sonnet, wherein we substitute streetcar stops for blocks to get our eight blocks forward before the “volta” and six blocks back. In the meantime, as Clark students head off on summer break, we hope you enjoy our poem:

Clark to Clark—A Sonnet Walk x 2

I.
Beginning in the east, ending in the west,
us kids are powerwalking through her hood.
We speed past, missing the house for sale,
smell of sweet flowers, musical wind chimes,
plastic bag flying through the air, trash all
the way. Some sidewalks are like people, cracked,
broken and damaged. A drum tempo makes
a heartbeat in the wind when you 180
back the way you came. Ivy creeps closer,
threatening entangled ankles, rosebud trees
rising up against the unknown. April
is the cruelest month, says the man waving
American flags, the white stark against
the parade of blue shining in the light.

II.
Trees without leaves give the leaf blower no
job. Birds chirping a weird birdish sound, cars
driving, children playing and water sprinkling
the blue blob drawn in chalk on the playground
blacktop. Redeemer Preschool, not a kid
in sight, but a dead mouse on the sidewalk.
We’re in Hyde Park, so of course it is Black,
the wind that made me feel powerful too
as if I was the one to change the world.
A nice, neighborly man with sprinklers
to help the heat tells me of poems I don’t
recall. This is me leaving my high school.
Nothing will stop me from wanting to be home.
Wherever I go, this is where I’m from.

Andrea Rotter’s Creative Writing Class
Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Ars Poetica by Deborah Jordan, Chuck Stringer and Pauletta Hansel

Ars poetica poems are a time-honored tradition within poetry. What is this thing we call “the art of poetry”? In what particular way does poetry matter to us?  For the final day of Cincinnati Poetry Month, I offer three explorations of the subject, by Deborah Jordan of East Price Hill, Chuck Stringer of Union, Kentucky, and by me. It has been an honor sharing the poetry of greater Cincinnati with you. Remember that Poetry Month is not the only time of year that we make poetry happen! I hope you will continue to use the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Events Group to connect to poetry and through poetry. I look forward to hearing your words at a reading soon.

Poetry is

Poetry is about words
encased in feathers and cement.
Poetry is pulling the blinds up on the unexpected
to stare in wonder at a moonlit-shrouded day.
Poetry lies in wait,
invites us to see what’s missing,
barges into our precious privacy,
dissolving it into particles.
Poetry can electrify, stupefy, mortify, and soothe.
Poetry is proof
that we’re practicing being human
Poetry is.

Deborah Jordan

***

Stringer, Chuck Ars Poetica, A Shadow Manifesto***

Of What We Make Our Poems

Ink, of course, and flecks of skin
on paper remind us who we
are is hatched from who we were,
this film of self now covering
who we will be. Locks of our
mothers’ hair; whiskers plucked,
roots intact, from our fathers’ chins.

And too, our poems are like
our houses. They want more of
us than we had planned to give
them—this one begs for a new
room, a door where we’d framed a
window; another pushes against
rafters, opens us to sky.

No matter what we say, our
poems are not our children.
They quicken outside our bodies,
run from us before they speak.
One poet I knew made his
of river rock and the black
longing between stars. I’ll make

my poems of silence stitched with words.
Pauletta Hansel, from Tangle
(After Jean Nordhaus’s “Of What Do We Make our Homes”)