I Am a Human Mask

The wonderful art teacher, Ms. Agramonte, arranged for this arts residency for her students’ mask making unit at PS/IS 218 in the Bronx. Lots of fun and deep philosophical discussions went into creating this book, “I am a Human Mask”. The title comes from student Alexander Quito’s poem. With a focus on masks, I visited class 603 four different times, including a trip to the Northwest-Coast-Indians wing at the American Museum of Natural History, where so many beautiful masks are on display.

Symbolism and metaphor are two literary devices that naturally align with masks. We read the poem “The Clans” by Richard Calmit Adams, that introduces imaginative thinking and offers some background about Native American culture that we saw reflected in the masks at the museum. We also read “Hiding in the Mask” by Ellen Bauer, an experimental poem that exemplifies the freedom and playfulness in creative writing unique to poetry. We studied mask poems (also known as persona poems), a form of poetry written from the perspective of being something else. I brought my own poem “Behold” written from the perspective of a mirror, and Dana Gioa’s “Becoming a Redwood” written from the perspective of being a tree. We read “I Am” by Joanna Hewitt that explores symbols we might use to represent character traits. Zora Neale Hurston’s passage personifying Death from her novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” offered an example of how rich descriptive language brings our ideas to life. Through imagination you can give life to an abstract noun, a concept, or inanimate thing. Poetry and art are empowering sources of communication and self-expression, as you will see here! Enjoy!

Thank you, Principal Carceras, Ms. Agramonte and class 603.

~Jane LeCroy, Writer-in-Residence

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
-Oscar Wilde


Click here to read the complete anthology



Human Mask
by Alexander (6th grade)

I am a human mask, I wonder
what happens around me
I hear laughter as people put me on
and take me outside
I want to be a human being
but I am a human mask

I pretend I’m human, I feel
I deserve more,
I touch the air with a hand I don’t have
I worry I’ll get hurt
I cry that my dreams can’t come true
I am a human mask

I understand I have to accept myself
I say to myself, I can’t do it
I dream of being human
I try to be safe
I hope I can change
I am a human mask

Teachers & Writers Magazine

Teachers & Writers Collaborative: www.twc.org