Soft Sunsets and Fire Flowers: An Anthology of Poems by Students of 51M

SOFT SUNSET & FIRE FLOWERS is an anthology of poetry by the first-grade students of PS 51M. The title is a quote from Evan Nursdorfer’s poem, “White Clouds,” and Gordon Tu’s electrifying poem, “Lava.” For sixteen days, students discussed the poetry of famous writers like, Kwame Dawes, Sandra Cisneros, Langston Hughes, Nina Simone, Pablo Neruda and others. These poets served as inspiration for students to write their own poems. Students had insightful discussions about the meaning and use of metaphors, the five senses, personification, imagination, alliteration and hyperbole.

The young poets in this anthology were excited to talk about and write poems in every single class. They turned on their imagination with a click to their temples and found themselves making hyperboles of fruits they loved: “Dear Grape, I would travel to Bangladesh to get you.” They personified kitchen objects, giving them a mouth and voice to speak. Students created metaphors about someone in their family: “My mom tastes like vanilla ice cream.” Nina Simone’s song “I Ain’t Got/I Got” inspired them to sing the blues about the things they don’t have, and then to celebrate all the things they do have that can never be taken away from them. Langston Hughes’s poem “April Rain Song” inspired their compassion and used the rain to bless people, animals and countries that are in need. They wrote acrostics with alliteration, creating music with the repetition of the beginning sound of a word. With the help of Kwame Dawes’s poem “Tornado Child,” students became lava, rainbow, lightning and children of other forces of nature. One student claimed that he was born in a “fire flower.”

I am so proud of each of the poets in this anthology. I was so lucky to work with students who ate poetry and found it to be so yummy. I was so happy to see them proud of themselves as they read their poems out loud. I was also moved by the caring and constructive feedback they gave each other to become better writers. These poets rock!

This anthology could not have been possible without the collaboration of the teachers and aides. Thank you to Ms. Bedzeti, Ms. Moas and Mrs. Simone for helping the students find words that gave voice to their imaginations and feelings. Thank you for your smiles as I entered your classrooms. Your excitement sparked the students’ excitement. I am grateful to have been part of this team.

Thank you to Ms. Sing-Bock for inviting me to PS 51M again. Thank you for cherishing the arts and making it an integral part of your school community.

Finally, my sincere gratitude to Elaine Clark and everyone at ING for supporting poetry workshops for students at PS 51M.

Alba Delia Hernández
Teaching Artist
June 2017


Featured Poem:

Click here to read the full anthology!

All About Love
by Ginette (1st grade)

My Mom
who smells
like the sun.
My Mom who tastes
My Mom who likes to
say, “I love you.”
My Mom who looks like
my sister.
My Mom
who feels
happy like a rose.
My Mom who dreams
about purple.


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