In this program at Central Park East II, we experimented with different ways of approaching poetry through music, harnessing the sense of play, improvisation, and exchange that is a hallmark of jazz and rap. Students wrote with music, about music, and through music. They were exposed to a diverse range of musicians and poets that represent a range of backgrounds and eras. Throughout this, they developed the music of their own writing voices by experimenting with different poetic techniques and forms.
We talked about sampling in music and in poetry—using other artists’ lines as inspiration and homage. Then, students used samples of lyrics from classic Jazz songs to compose their own collaged poems. We also experimented with how poetry can capture the sound of something—we read Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem “Guitar,” and then wrote about the sounds that enchant or annoy us—from the sound of rain to the sound of an ice cream truck.
As the students’ creative skills developed further, we delved into The Blues, and learned that, while The Blues has its origins in jazz, it also exists in poetry, and even rap. We explored the way that Blues, in all its forms, can express sadness and hardship, but can also lift us out of those things, bringing hope. Finally, we turned away from the Blues and wrote Odes—poems in praise of things we love, admire, or appreciate.
Throughout my time working with students at CPE II, I was impressed by their willingness to play with words, their ear for musical language, and their incredible sense of community in the classroom. These are students who know how to appreciate each other’s creativity, and challenge each other too. With the poems collected in this anthology, I hope you will be able to glimpse some of that wonderful and entertaining creative play.
I’d like to thank the Latrice McLloyd and Emilio Quinones for their incredible collaboration and support in the classroom throughout this residency. Thank you as well to Principal Naomi Smith, for making this program possible, and creating such a positive and creative school community. And thank you to all the other teachers and staff members at CPE II who welcomed me into the school, dropped into the classroom to listen to student poems, and supported this creative learning. A huge thank you, always, to the staff at the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Jordan Dann, Amy Swauger, and Jade Triton. And above all, thank you to all the student writers at CPE II. It’s been a privilege to play some poetry with you!
by Catherine (8th grade)
I sit by the window and think what is a poem?
A poem is a city, nation, a poem is the world
I say to myself but what is the true meaning of it?
Is it expressing your feelings, is it making it rhyme,
What if it doesn’t make sense, what should I do?
I keep asking myself what is a poem?
A lady once told me a poem is a story, it’s where you can express yourself. A poem.
Ode to Honesty
by Jannellee (7th grade)
Honesty, the key to the door
What is honesty?
Honesty could break a heart
Make a heart
Opening it up til it’s inside out
All that’s left now is anxiety
For what will happen when honesty
Tells its truth
Little did she know her
Honesty’s truth told things she
Didn’t even know about herself
Surprising herself and left with
No soul and a broken heart