Back in the fall, I taught a poetry workshop at Pueblo Gardens K-8 School in South Tucson. I worked directly with Ms. Maldonado’s sixth grade class, through the UA Poetry Center’s “Writing the Community” Program, which encouraged creativity and freedom through writing for students in grades ranging K-8. I wanted most of my lessons to rely on the idea of spontaneity that inspired me at the time, and to remind the students how to have fun with writing. This was especially important for sixth graders, who spend most of their writing time learning the general basics of how to structure an academic paper, which seemed to bore them to death.
The class was very small, only about twenty students, so my favorite thing about the space was my ability and availability to walk around and speak to every student individually during silent writing time, or while I was passing back their work. The students were each distinctly themselves; I learned something specific from them. The most interesting element of their ability with writing was their uninhabited gift to think outside the box, and embrace every lesson with excitement and passion. Who knew sixth graders could get so eager about poetry? Perhaps it is all about the way it is presented to them. It was almost as though they could feel my excitement and so it led them to be engaged and interested. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time leading students in a class experience, and it is thanks to these wonderful minds.
The following poem is an “exquisite corpse” poem, a poem where students provided a line, only being able to read the line directly before them. Each time the paper was passed to another student, it would be folded back so nothing around it was visible except for what is right in front of it. I knew something brilliant would come from it, due to my already inspiring experience with this group, but what I got back was an amazing poem that actually showed each students personality like a lens in a pair of glasses, and allowed each one of them shine in their own unique way, directly on the page. These lines are fabulous, varying in length, detail, and structure but all adding something really tremendous to the poem. This mirrors my exact experience with these students. They each provide something note-worthy, and profound, yet in different ways. I wrote the first line, but the sixth graders wrote the rest individually. I notice how it shifts so seamlessly, how it embraces color, light, and life, it feels like a conversation I’m having with them. I see this poem as a reflection of their classroom: exciting, strange, yet beautiful to take in.
I walked upstairs, and stopped when I saw something.
It was an insect.
The insect was red,
A pretty bright red
Not maroon, but really beautiful red
Like a rainbow, beautiful colors
Changing colors in the sunlight
Like orange and yellow leaves
You like pink and purple when you smell the sting of love.
Small hearts appear when you fall in love
Just like butterflies in your stomach, that makes you flurry
When you’re nervous
You eat those crispy things like tacos
They have meat in them
Just like humans do
& smell like a–
it smells like a flower
barely blooming, and so beautiful
it is fully bloomed in spring
the flower was blooming all day.
Benny Sisson is a poet and undergraduate at the University of Arizona.