Thursday, June 18, 2009
Pedro Keep Writing: The children @ P.S. 59 In Brooklyn
This week,I was fortunate enough to accompany a fellow poet Advocate Of Wordz to a school to give a writing workshop to 4th grade students @ Elementary School PS 59 in Brooklyn, New York. This was my first time ever dealing with children and poetry. I was to perform two poems and Advocate would then give the children a writing prompt.
I wasextremely nervous because most of the time I write for adults and on adult topics.I have a tendancy to overthink things and was becoming extremely worried that the kids would call me boring and throw their pencils @ me. My awesome Slam Coach Mahogany L. Browne (ask about her) gave me great advice, "Write something that you would find suitable for your daughters ears". This kind of sort of helped, but my daughter is 8 going on 21 so she really is not a great help. Nevertheless, I ended up writing something after all and off I went to the school with my two brand new PG-13 poems.
The children were learning about the History behind the Nuyo-Rican poets cafe and the Lower east-side. Advocate was amazing with the children. When he performed his pieces I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had touched on tough subjects, speaking on everything from the homeless man on the train, to the loss of his grandmother, to revolution. Here I was at home, trying to write poems for fourth graders that were as innocent as possible and totally forgot to include the realness and rawness of the world, and especially all of things we encounter living in New York City. I felt so stupid.
As a parent, I tend to be overly protective of my daughter. While I understand that we live in the 21st century and I am usually open and honest with my daughter, I usually ease into tough subjects when speaking to her. I am the "treat everything with kiddie gloves" kind of mom. I would like my daughter to stay as innocent as possible while at the same time teaching her the dangers of the world. This is a balance I am still learning to maintain, and I often find myself on a very thin tightrope, with the rough realities of the world on one side of the rope and the wonderfulness of the world on the other.
Anyhow, after we read our pieces to the children, Advocate gave the kids a writing prompt. He told the children to imagine they had a 3rd eye on their forehead. The deal with the 3rd eye was that whenever your two regular eyes were open, the 3rd eye would be closed, and when the 3rd eye was open, your two regular eyes would be closed. The 3rd eye gave them the ability to see what the two eyes could normally not see.
The stories/poems that these children came up with were amazing to say the least.
We went around helping the children.
A little girl told me her 3rd eye gave her ability to see ghosts. I asked her to write down on her paper what the ghosts looked like, what they were doing etc.
She looked at me dead in eye and with the most serious face said "No really, I see ghosts." I was taken aback and insipred all the same by her blunt honesty and innocence. She did not care if I believed her, she did not care if I thought she was a crazy little girl, she was just blatant and unaware of any consequences her statement could have caused her, and this was so beautiful to me. As adults we often hide what we really feel, or what we really believe in, like there is a shield that covers our mouths from exposing our true selves at times and this little girl, bold and unabashed made me think fuck what the world thinks,I am going to write like I never knew the meaning of the word censorship. =x
Another boy named Pedro had the most revolutionary 3rd eye. His 3rd eye saw the gangs in his neighborhood, his 3rd eye saw the innocent people in court. His poem was just amazingly insightful. Sometimes, we think children do not understand the ways of the world, but they are so much more savvy than we give them credit for.
Another little girl that stood out to me, said that her 3rd eye was evil. Her 3rd eye told her that she would never be anything when she grew up. Her 3rd eye told her that she would not finish school. She used her two eyes in her poem as well, they optimists. They told her that she would suceed in anything she put her mind to. Her poem reflected an ongoing battle between the 3rd eye and her two eyes. Good and evil. I was happy to listen to her read at the end of her poem that her 3rd eye was destroyed. This made me wonder about the driving forces behind her inspiration. Was there an individual in this 4th graders life who was "the evil 3rd eye". Who told her that she would not be anything when she grew up. I wondered all this and more.
I left the school inspired @ the honesty of the childrens writes, and I learned so much from them all. Imagination is a wonderful thing. These children are seriously our future EVERYTHING, and we must cultivate their passions and support them in anything they want to do.
At the end of the workshop, the students were leaving the classroom and Pedro came up to me at the end of the workshop and asked me to read a notebook that soley contained all of the poems he had ever written. He hurridly read me another poem, before he had to follow his classmates. The little boy was seriously talented and his poems were so real, and reflected "the hood" and "the struggle" from the eyes of a 4th grader. I wanted to continue hearing him read ...and I was so profoundly affected by the rawness and the reality of this poetry that I didnt know what to say except,
"Pedro Keep writing, you have a gift in you that you can never give up on"
I can only hope to see him at the NuyoRican Poets cafe one day.