Writer-in-Residence, Spring 2020
Amina Henry is a Brooklyn-based playwright, adjunct lecturer (Brooklyn College, SUNY Purchase) and teaching artist (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Hunts Point Alliance for Children). Recent productions include Hero Theatre’s production of Troy, an adaptation of The Trojan Women by Euripides (Los Angeles, CA), and New Light Theatre’s production of The Great Novel (Flea Theater, New York, NY). During the 2019-2020 school year, she served writer-in-residence at P.S. 188Q in Queens, where she led a poetry workshop for 3rd and 4th grade students. Below is the foreword from the workshop anthology and several student writing samples.
“I have a voice, my voice is powerful, my voice can change the world.” This is the mantra that began every session this year, and what a year it has been. The students and faculty at P.S. 188Q this year were a consistent delight during a time in which the world has become less delightful than we all would have liked.
This year we deepened our exploration of the world in which we live, while also exploring our own personal landscapes. We were inspired by and in conversation with a diverse range of poets such as Frank O’Hara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Ross Gay, Gloria Fuertes, Edward Hirsch, Ishle Yi Park, Dylan Thomas, and Wallace Stevens. We exercised our imagination using a wide array of poetic tools –repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, imagery, simile, metaphor, personification, rhyme, and syntax. We wrote deeply autobiographical poems, sharing delectable pieces of ourselves such as memories, obsessions, and fears. We worked together to create sonnets and villanelles and lunes (I love the word lune).
Even as we transitioned from meeting in person to meeting virtually, we continued to read and write – playfully, diligently – together. We wrote and wrote – the way writers do.
P.S.188Q is a school that is unflappable in its journey towards greater knowledge and joy. Thank you Mr. Carneiro, Ms. DiFilippi, Ms. Garcia, Mr. Politidis, and Ms. Wingenfeld for welcoming me into your classrooms, both live and online. Thank you Principal Caraisco for your continued support of this residency, even with the challenges of moving to virtual learning. And of course, a warm, enormous, and sloppy thank you to the Third and Fourth Grade Gifted and Talented students of PS188Q for your hard work, dedication and joy throughout this year. Thank you for remaining joyful, for continuing to be excited by things like dogs, cats, bananas, nature, music, friends, potatoes and basketball (among many, many other things). Thank you for reminding me how fun the world can be. You are so powerful and you will change the world.
FEATURED STUDENT WRITING
Recipe #2 for Bliss
Mr. Carneiro and Ms. DiFilippi’s Classes
Be very, very calm.
Dream of a world without COVID-19.
Dig a hole and bury the virus deep in the ground.
Chop up some bananas and blessings and toss them in a blender.
Sift four or five clouds into the mixture.
Sprinkle on a little light rain, cover and listen to the whirrr.
Add ½ cup of salty waves and 4 teaspoons of wind.
Because black is cool, put some in a bowl,
with red, purple, teal and neon orange.
Add a large slice of the ocean, golden sunshine, eggs, and lots of flour.
Peel the sun.
Bounce a basketball.
Play a game with Kobe Bryant in a sky that looks like water with many colors.
Add sushi, two snakes, a few cats and stars.
Pour in a cup of sleeping sloths.
Don’t wake them.
Pre-heat your pants
while watching the Cartoon Network.(Nickelodeon works just as well.)
After adding a little yeast, use your fingers to roll and shape your dough into:
penguins, koalas, and pandas.
Draw sheep and llamas.
After learning about Greek mythology, create your own myth.
Cut the world into squares and visit each square.
Take an airplane to see this square world.
Lots and lots of potatoes.
Add a little snow powder, enough for a snowman or a snowball fight.
Cover the whole thing with God’s smile.
Then dance on a beach with Jesus
in Greece or Japan or South Korea or Taiwan.
Eat ice cream or a Big Mac while in nature.
Put inside of a video game.
Sip on a gallon of WiFi while listening to a musical meditation.
Go skiing or watch anime.
Speak different-colored languages.
After a while, fold in a soccer ball.
Bake until it smells like summer rain.
You’ll know it’s done when
the golden retrievers, Alaskan Klee Kais and Motion Mountain dogs sing.
It should tingle like Disney World when it touches your tongue.
Let it sit until the end of the Spy School book series.
Garnish with Pusheen, a bootiful, chubby cat.
Share with loved ones while on a trip to California. Or anywhere.
It should taste like peace and pizza and sleep, although occasionally it tastes like cake.
It goes well with a Harry Potter book or a generous helping of yeets and yays.
Some people like it with a few math games, so you can try that as well.
Off the porch
onto the hard concrete
the winter breeze seems
to be targeting me
It blows onto my
face, making my cheeks
feel hot and cold
at the same time.
I exhale deeply, then
see a fog come out
of my mouth. Winter
is truly here.
I lick my teeth. I can
feel the winter breeze humming
as if it’s a sweet lullaby sung by my mother
I look down onto my hands. Snowflakes
Now I will tell you about when
My cousins put whipped cream
On their heads
The white foam piled on top
While they sat with their swimsuits on
In the green grass
Then I will tell you
That bees only live less than six weeks
I am a butterfly
— Azalea Li