Twenty-four Poets Keep Their Third Eyes Open

The class grew quiet as one student stood and observed her surroundings. With her two eyes, she saw her classmates working and putting together poems. With both eyes closed, through her third eye, she experienced that “feeling when you’re sitting beside the ocean and it’s so quiet you can only feel the waves.” 

By: Olivia-Jane Ureles

I’m a poet
And I know it
And I’ve got my whole life
To show it

This is the mantra that Teachers & Writers Collaborative Teaching Artist Matthew Brailas and the room of 24 fourth graders recited at the beginning of their poetry class. Alongside classroom teacher Ms. Belizzi, I had the pleasure of observing Matthew lead an enriching and engaging class from the moment the morning bell rang and class commenced. Through this Teachers & Writers Writing Program, centered around inspiring students and their creative voices, I learned about the creative process behind the “Third Eye Experiment.”

“And what do we do to our writing to make our writing more exiting?” Matthew asked next. 

The young writers started with a review of poetic devices. They rapidly fired terms and concepts they have studied: personification, alliteration, delicious details, similes/metaphors, and onomatopoeia. The most important device these young poets have worked on is The most important device these young poets focused on was observation—using their senses, specifically their sight, to describe objects.

Today was one of Matthew’s favorite days. “Some of you might remember this day from last year. Today we are going to be looking with our two eyes but we are also going to be opening up…” 

“Our third eye!” shouted the class, most of whom had already worked with Matthew. 

The energy in the classroom only continued to elevate as they described what they could see with their respective third eyes. With no right or wrong answer, together Ms. Belizzi, Matthew, and the poets made several key points on what the third eye allows us to see: 

  1. A real or imaginary place
  2. Someone or something we’ve lost or is no longer with us
  3. A whole new universe
  4. Completely new things
  5. Different poems
  6. Souls
  7. Wherever our mind floats us 

“The third eye is like a sixth sense,” a student concluded, leading Matthew to emphasize that while observing with a “third eye” –we still imagine all of those sensory details. The class aimed to smell and feel any detail they could, even if it wasn’t something in front of them. 

“Does someone want to come up to the front of the class and try opening up their third eye?” 

The class grew quiet as one student stood and observed her surroundings. With her two eyes, she saw her classmates working and putting together poems. With both eyes closed, through her third eye, she experienced that “feeling when you’re sitting beside the ocean and it’s so quiet you can only feel the waves.” 

Another student saw “a place full of happiness –where its calm, and nice” with her third eye. Matthew pushed her further: “What makes it nice?” he asked. Ms. Belizzi then drew it back to the class: “Why do we think Mr. Brailas is asking her that question: What makes it nice? What do you think he is trying to encourage her to do?” 

The students knew. “Details!” 

Next, third eyes printed on red orange stickers were passed around. In turn, each poet wore their third eye in the most creative places: their chin, their forehead, their eyelid, their neck, their throat, their nose. Soon, the room was silent and the poets began to write and create a poem detailing what they could see with their third eyes.

While the poets worked, Matthew walked around to help individually. While the poets worked, Matthew walked around to help individually. “How’s it going?” he would ask, helping them get started, work through a specific point, or conclude their poems.

After fifteen minutes, volunteers stood to share. Matthew made a quick reminder: “Where do we hold our papers? Down in our faces or out so our eyes are looking up?” His question demonstrated that this class was about reading creative work just as much as it was about writing—an important emphasis for any creative writing class. 

“And remember, readers do not share until they feel that others are paying attention,” Ms. Belizzi added, another critical component of reading work out loud. 

“I’m just going to make a note,” one student said before beginning. “All the stuff included isn’t literal. So, if it’s confusing, deal with it!” The class broke out in laughter. “With my third eye open, I see…” he started his piece. 

The poems were extensive and after each reading, the class snapped their fingers, grew still, and waited for their next fellow poet to read.

While listening, I opened my third eye. Together, as a class, we shared the experience of the poet who wrote about their ability to “swim on the ground and run on water.” We witnessed the poet “burn water and boil wood for supper.” Another poet with their third eye open allowed us to see that everything was their favorite color: purple. “I see a dancing turtle. I see a turtle that will not stop dancing,” another poem included. We saw that turtle, too. 

To Matthew Brailas, Ms. Belizzi, and especially those 24 poets: thank you for including me in your “Third Eye Experiment.” It reiterated two things:

  1. The ability to see with your third eye open is an essential component of life, and
  2. The ability to write with your third eye open is an essential component of being a poet.

Student Poems:

Kindness

Spread a little kindness
Sprinkle as you go
Send it out into the world
watch it run and flow
you’ll find that your own happiness
will grow and grow and grow

— Abegail W.

Window Vista

I hear rain tapping on my window sill.
It is like the rain is trying to wake me up.
It smells like fresh flowers singing.
WHOOSH! There goes a car, making everything wet.
The rain is really helpful to plants and animals.
Thank you, rain!

— Afia H.

Joy

The joy I have right now is like the birth of a newborn.
It is hatless and harmless to all.
I think a rocket just went to the sky.
Fireworks here and there, but I say they’re everywhere.
It is almost time to say goodbye to everyone,
and that is where time ends.

— Ibtehaz A.



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