Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm ________________________MAD! a social justice writing workshop with Lady Terror @ Crown

8th grade students in Luke Albrecht's math class at Crown Academy are working with me and performance poet Lady Terror on a social justice writing project that explores food as freedom. What is enough? How is food like freedom? What is worth gettting mad about and why? This is a project through Columbia College Chicago's Center for Community Arts Partnerships. Here are some responses to the poetic question: What kind of mad are you?!

I'm balistic mad.
I'm driving in a wall mad.
I'm devil mad.
I'm social justice mad.
I'm hit my cat mad.
I'm 2010 mad.
I'm hitting the locker mad.
I'm Tears of a Tiger mad.
I'm fighting my mom mad.


I'm brothers mad.
I'm brother took my X-box mad.


I'm throwin' people out the window mad.
I am on fire mad.
I am punching the wall mad.
I feel like killing myself mad.


I'm stomping mad,
fire off the black board
Mr. A on my case mad.
I'm smack my momma mad,
flamin' hots mad,
smash a window mad
ball your fist mad
red stop sign mad.
I'm failing math mad
wanna torch the school mad
just wanna quit school mad...


I'm the devil mad
I'm smokin' someone mad
I'm walkin on the moon mad
runnin' this town mad
turning my swag on mad


I'm fire mad
I'm crying red mad
I'm jump off a bridge mad
I'm going in a lion cage mad
I'm getting my face ripped off mad
I'm run away from home mad


I'm red pissed off
I need to get away
I'm red mad bloody red mad
like, damn! red get off red
just let me be mad.
Get out of my head mad.
Stay off my feet mad.
Just let me be mad
cause you don't know me mad
I'm red mad, just like red man,
He's red mad.


I'm black and red mad
momma steady yelling mad
shootin' up my brain mad
crying black tears mad
I wanna kill this cat mad
I wanna go home mad
I wanna jump in the river mad
I'm Darkness by Dawn mad
I'm crazy mad
I'm Latoya mad
I'm teenage mad
I'm scholastic mad
I'm rotation mad
I'm translation mad
I'm dotted mad
I'm itchy mad

Brittany D.

I'm Michael Jackson mad
Jason mad Freddy Krueger mad
I'm cyclops mad
I'm garbage man mad
I'm black mad
I'm five heart beats mad
I'm busting glass mad
I'm kick my neighbor
bust my head mad
I'm ignited and damned mad
I'm undertaker mad
I'm nightmare mad
I'm ripping my heart out mad


I'm sabertooth mad
I'm extreme mad
I'm killing spree mad
I'm wolverine mad
I'm out of my mind mad


I'm gun mad
I'm diamond mad
I'm jerkin' mad
I'm mowing the lawn mad
I'm washing the dishes mad
I'm cleaning the whole house mad
I'm doing my essay mad
I'm dancing mad
I'm listening to music mad
I'm dreaming of me as a robot mad
I'm vocabulary mad
I'm spelling mad
I'm on stage singing mad


I'm emotional mad
I'm crazy, stupid, sick mad
World going crazy mad
Cursing out people mad
Crying mad


I'm riping up my social security card mad
I'm burning stuff up mad
I'm jump off a mountain mad


I'm baby just born mad
I'm crying light green tears mad
I'm dumping my lover mad
I'm writing so much mad
I'm putting my head in the toilet mad
I'm mummy mad
I'm shrinking mad


I'm driving my car mad
I want to frighten a cat mad
I want to be a baby mad
I'm climbing up the tree mad


I'm skinny mad
I'm hungry mad
I'm throwing my computer out the window mad


I'm pissed off mad
I'm emotional mad
I'm black, blue, red mad
I'm glad I'm mad
I'm crazed energetic mad
I'm betrayed mad
I'm damn-gotta-problem mad
I'm just me so let me be mad
I'm putting somebody in the locker mad
I'm screaming mad
I'm hitting my mom in the face mad
I'm burning up mad

Brittany R.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So Far Away...6th Graders Deal with Emotional Distance

6th graders at Columbus Elementary School read poet Susan Stewart's "yellow ice and stars," about feeling really really far away from one another. I asked them to think of what it feels like to feel far away and to describe those feelings by talking directly to the person/idea so far away.

Death Is Near

You are as far as god and I

am as far as the world

on a planet with a house on it.

You are as far as a memory

in the sky and I’m as far as

my cousin’s death, as he rides

in the sea like a dead man.

You are as far as my sister’s

lies, I’m as far as my death is

near, and you are as far as

Navy Pier in an old place. I am

as far as gods in the sky.

You are as far as my love.

I am as far as my love in the

blue sky. You are as far as the

trees. I am as far as a river

of love.

You are So Far I Never Saw Your Face

You and I are as far as where

Jesus is. I am as far as the bottom of

the boat of the Titanic. You are so far I

never saw your face. I am as far

as the first day I saw you. I am so

far away that nobody is understanding you.

You are as far as the day I was born.

You are so far away that I don’t

even remember your name. I am so far that

I don’t even remember my brothers’ and sisters’

names. You are so far away into the first

War we ever had. I am so far where

I could see the universe. You are so far that

You don’t even know the place you are.

You and I are so far away, where only god

sees us.

Jessica A.

As Far As...

I am as far as a gem that is

cascading down eternity and you are as far as

a computer with its vast knowledge.

You are as far as the heavens that rain

smoldering, flipping boulders and I am

as far as the person on the bottom of the

pain where darkness is eternal.

I am as far as destruction and you are far as creation.

I am as far as a black hole at the nexus

of nothing and you are as far as the person

trapped in that hole. You are as far as the river

o life and I am as far as the person

who sings “oh how far I am from life!”

I am as far as destruction and you are

as far as creation.

You are as far as a boy playing in a field

and I am as far as the father calling

the boy from the mountains. I am as far as

the sky and you are as far as the

mountain piercing the sky.

I am as far as destruction and you are as

far as creation.

Alexander C.

Until We Turned To Dust...4th Graders' Takes on Origins

In 2003, at Columbus Elementary School in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood, I worked with 4th graders once a week. One week, we wrote poems about rewinding the universe and finding the origins of things around us. What was a baby before it was a baby? An egg. What was an egg before it was an egg? Dust. What was dust before it was dust? An idea. and so on...there were some really wild spiraling ideas in their poems...


The car turns into wood and wood turns into a tree and a tree

turns into a root and the root turns into water and the water

turns into a seed and a seed, how can all things come from a


The door knob turns into iron and the iron turns into a

railroad track being torn down or maybe being torn


The milk turns into a cow and the cow turns into a cattle

and the cattle turns into a lost cloud.

A letter turns into a memory and a memory turns into a

big Glob of Nothing.

Gianna S.

And Where was I?

The world turned into an egg again and then

into a rock. I was in the rock.

The board would turn into a rock and I

was in a volcano.

The clock would turn into a stick again and I

was a rock.

Chicago was a small fort on land and I was

on a mountain.

The White House would turn into sand and

I was in a store.

The sky would turn into water and I was

a tadpole.

The land would turn into sand and I was

in a tree.

The boat would turn into sticks and I am inside a


The light would turn into dark and I was in the


The ocean would turn into land and I was in

a pond.

Tomasz B.

God's Breath

The house turns into bricks.

The bricks turn into dust.

The dust turns into air.

The air turns into God’s breath.

God’s breath turns into us.

Becky N.

The Origin of Humans

The humans turn into monsters.

The monsters turn back into big piles of goo.

The big piles of goo turns back into a green sun.

The green sun turns back into Venus.

Venus turns back into the Earth.

The Earth turns into a bird.

The bird turns into an egg.

The egg turns back into a human.

Jonathan F.

The Words

The seas turn into bees

The bees turn to E’s

The E’s turn to nothing

Nothing turns to air

Air turns to Jesus

Jesus turns to God

God turns to Christ

Christ turns to spirits

Spirits turn to hope

and hope turns to love

Love turns to wife

Wife turns to husband

Husband turns to dust.

Alexandra P.


Your words turn out to be air

The great lakes become ponds

My heart turns into sadness

A person becomes death

The devil becomes an angel

The teacher becomes a student

The world becomes a map

The picture becomes a country

Power becomes a spirit

Love turns into sadness

Earth turns into a singing bird

The teapot turns to water

A family becomes love

Ice becomes a book

The tree becomes a desk

The gold turns into silver

Khrystyna K.

Rewinding the World

My pencil becomes a wooden stick.

All humans become clouds.

The water becomes the sea.

One hour goes back to one second.

The world becomes a huge forest.

All chalk becomes dust.. This is what

would happen if we rewind the world.

Xavier M.

The class will turn into glass.

The city will turn into sand.

A pupil will turn into your eye.

The train will turn into rain.

Your hand will turn into your skin.

Alyssa R.

The air turned into solid gold

The wind turned into a whistling

Pole. My hair turned into

slimy stones. Five socks

made of gold break my bones.

A bird walks over the sea

10 fish turned into flees

A hippo couldn’t have broken

my knees oh please oh please

don’t change back, oh please.

Jasmine H.

Cruising Away From the Madness -- 4th Graders' Poetic Escapes

In 2003 at Columbus Elementary School in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood, I was working with 4th graders. We read Naomi Shihab Nye's poem called The Rider -- about a boy who leaves his Loneliness panting on a street corner because he's riding so fast away from it on his roller skates. So I asked these guys to think about what they wanted to get away from and what mode of transport they'd use to get away -- how far would they go and what would whatever they escaped be doing if/when they were finally gone?

The Boy Left

I wanted to get away from war so I got in a

spaceship and flew over the world and

the war disappeared.

I wanted to get away from the world so I

borrowed a flying machine and I flew

all the way through the atmosphere and

the world followed me all through the

galaxy. And it caught me and smashed

me in a thousand pieces.

Tomasz B.


anger anger dries up like a solid

stone. broken up like fearful

tone. having pain and wonder

of the torturing cold. being an

angel of the goodest poem

i’m stone can’t break my bones.

so i hop on a flying poem

my body’s wondering where i’m goin’.

my soul is heading to the north pole..

who knows where i’m goin’?


I Wanted

A wise man told me he wanted to jump in

his red truck and go so fast just to get away

from fear. He said he would be going so fast

that fear would be left in the middle of the

earth panting. It didn’t sound so wise to me.

That night I thought about what he said and

thought about my fear. I thought of what the

old wise man said and it kind of made sense.

So I hopped into my red roller skates and

went so fast that I went half way across

the world and I did it. I left my fear

swimming across the Pacific Ocean.

Gianna S.

Trying to leave my soul behind,

I hop on a hot air balloon and took happiness.

Trying to get away from love,

I left my soul and she’s still trying to find me,

Looking all over the world.

She said, please Alyssa, find me oh please,

Banging her hands, having a fit for me.

I tried to get away from love but

Love still found me under a rock

So little you can’t see me.

Alyssa R.

I was really, really so sad that I hopped to my

Airplane and traveled all around the world. And my

Sadness was left on top of the ceiling.

I was really, really so angry that I hopped into

A motorcycle and I traveled to the moon and my

Anger was left in a garbage can.

I was really, really so shy that I hopped into an air

Balloon and flew to Mars and my shyness was

Left in the sink.

I was trying to get out from an enemy’s house.

I got on my bike and traveled to China and my

Enemy was left in a pile of garbage.

Anahi R.

I want to get away from loneliness.

I got on my boat and I went to Hawaii, leaving

loneliness swimming in the ocean.

Michael L.

I wanted to get away from an enemy.

I got in my limo and went around the world and my enemy was sitting on the front


I wanted to get away from a bully

and went on an air balloon and went to

the Great Wall of China and the bully

was crying out loud.

I wanted to get away from sadness

and went on a helicopter and then

came back and my sadness was down

in the basement trying to get out.

Sandra M.

One day I was so bored so I got on

my roller blades and I rode 400,000 miles

and my boredness got tired and went away

from me forever.

I tried to prevent war but a nuclear bomb

blew the world up so I got on a train

and flew out to space and landed on


Lyubomir S.

The Loneliness

I had a big anger to

I go on my motorcycle and

went all over the world.

Anger started spinning away from


I had a big sadness so

I got on my jet plane

and sadness was burning

in the clouds.

I had a big cold so

I hopped on a bus that

went so fast, cold couldn’t

keep up and it got freezing in the


Xavier M.

Friday, October 16, 2009

EKPHRASIS -- EKPHRASTATIC -- Poems & Paintings, Poets & Painters

responding to works of art through poetry:

 NOUN-VERB-NOUN – identify nouns, verbs, and nouns in 3 columns and begin to mix and match new imagery as a result of various combinations (first taught to me by Evan Plummer)

 GETTING TO THE ESSENCE – write 24 words in response to a work of art, then reduce it to 12, 6, 3 and finally 1 word as the essential “essence” of the work (first taught to me by Jenn Morea)

 3 WORDS ONLY – on small post it notes, respond by describing, analyzing, interpreting works, but only write 3 words per post it note – then arrange/rearrange post it notes into a poem

 JUST OUTSIDE THE FRAME… -- imagine what is “just outside the frame/image” – what do you see, hear, imagine, remember, dream, wonder about?

 JUST BEFORE/AFTER…what happened just before or just after the narrative in the art work?

 FIRST PERSON MONOLOGUES – pick a person or object in the work of art and speak from their perspective/voice


 QUESTIONS TO…the object, person, landscape

 I AM…place yourself inside the work and become an object or landscape, etc. What do you see/experience/feel/remember?

 ___________IS___________________ -- pick an object/person/landscape and compare it to something else

 LETTER LIMITS – write about what you see/hear/think/feel only using words that begin with certain letters of the alphabet

 EPISTLE/ODE TO AN OBJECT/SUBJECT WITHIN THE WORK – directly address an object, person, etc. through a poem or ode praising that thing/person


 IN THIS MOMENT… try to capture a single moment in the work of art – expand – and choose another moment – expand

 WHAT IF… what does this work of art make you wonder – start with a “what if” question about the object, person, etc. and keep asking

 HAIKU-or-LUNE-AS-REFLECTION – write a haiku (5-7-5 syllables, 3 lines) or lune (3-5-3 words peron line, 3 line poem) about what you see/experience

 FIVE TITLES AS A POEM – come up with at least 5 different titles for the work of art

 I KEEP DREAMING OF…-- imagine that this work of art is causing you to dream – what is happening in this dream?

FROM POETS.ORG: The Shield of Achilles by W. H. Auden
The Painting by Jon Balaban
War Photograph by Kate Daniels
The Family Photograph by Vona Groarke
Museum Guard by David Hernandez
The Mad Potter by John Hollander
Messieur Degas Teaches Art and Science at Durfy Intermediate School, Detroit 1942 by Philip Levine
Ode to a Grecian Urn by John Keats
Die Muhle Brennt—Richard by Richard Matthews
Photograph of People Dancing in France by Leslie Adrienne Miller
Why knowing is (& Matisse's Woman with a Hat) by Martha Ronk
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams
Stealing The Scream by Monica Youn
Joseph Cornell, with Box by Michael Dumanis
QUESTIONS to consider when writing in response to a work of art: (from
• What's the perspective of the poem? Does the poet "enter" the painting and join its world? Does he/she become a figure in that depiction? Is the poet a spectator? Participant? Art critic?
• What part of the art work has inspired the sentiment? Is the poet sympathetic? Compassionate?
• To what is the poet responding: the subject? the technique? the history? the artist?
• Does the poet make mention of the time difference between when he/she writes and when the work was created?
• What special language does the poet employ to deal with the art work?
• Is the "point" of the poem the same as that of the art work?
ANOTHER GREAT SOURCE FOR EKPHRASTIC POETRY: “ekphrastic excursions” -- David Wright

ekphrasis --
 give voice to the work of art by entering its world
 praise the work of art by examining what you learn from it, why you need it
 examine a personal issue by zoning in on a specific feeling/issue raised in the work of art
 examine a social/historical issue by zoning in on the work of arts’ context/intent

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FB Status Updates from Tanzania 2009

jet lag pulls the lids down like the undertow of night dream waves. i wake to sleep and take my waking slow...don't want to wash the coast off my clothes...

in the middle of the night i wake up and can't be certain which world exists beyond my bedroom door.

heart breaking taarab music with rasta zanzibari omani fisherman, babu ali, where are you now?! dalla-dalla ride to paje, glittering white sand, turquoise water, sweet love and sleep in a tree house, women walk the low tide collecting seaweed, rustle of palm leaves, three hours on the porch for piko and hennaed feet, a ferry ride to dar hand in hand, good byes extended, dar to arusha, never want to leave...

reunion with hemedi khamis in dar, spice tour tomorrow, dinner at two tables tonight, sunset at africa house, swahili classes with teacher daulat, yet another marriage proposal from omani sisters (second wife seems to be the trend), and small run in with zanzibari police, revealing the seedy underworld of robbery, prostitution, and drugs here -- no worries, i'm a witness, not participant...well, sort of. long story.

swahili language classes at the institute for kiswahili language and culture, roof top coffees, strange re-verb from the past, incredible fresh fish, lush gardens, grilled octopus, soft dhows, sugar cane memories, winding roads, impossibly lost.

mombasa to takaungu to dar bus ride, remembering giriama disco in the middle of nowhere, palm wine, stars, muslim ladies, tawakal bus co. pride, bananas and cashews for sale by open window, arusha friends in dar, seedy air-con disco, fierce heat, ferry ride to zanzibar, arriving to a new reality here, single-cigarette purchase ten cents, women all dressed black, flip flop fashions remix, internet cafe in shangani

last & first days, corn fields & cows, narrow, winding pathways through banana tree forests, flickering electricity, indian buffet, masaii market sister-friends, sketch & shade, reality & trust, fierce sun, chapati. row boats and musical chairs, wet black boots, back-breaking dala-dala rides, the unknown, last show at school tomorrow, beautiful asmaha, conjuring inner strength, michael jackson kangas. seriously.

negotiations with yaz the sign painter, a long walk to duluti lake, distant singing voices in church cave, clouds on water, belly ache, heart ache, weird and great talks with too cool hard to the core teaching assistant, preparing for solo travel, question of visas, points of entry, permission, desire. dress rehearsal, tomorrow.

sipping whiskey with exiled black panther pete o neal in his living room, performing for u.n. tanzanian ambassador augustine muhigu, posing for a picture with rap star professor j (tanzania's biggie smalls), directing a scene where a monster of secrets and lies about hiv/aids melts and dies, learning tanzanian sign language. immersed, in it, fully. belly & all.

hazy evening market, ugali and beans, deranged missionaries, masai regalia, obama hand painted beauty salon signs, banana leaf umbrellas, rich coffee, freeze improvisation, theater is real life.

banana leaves, chickens & cows, flip flops, kangas, sky of stars, hazy smoke, masaii plaid, rolling hills of meru, ugali and beans, green lusciousness, rocky dirt roads, women with baskets on their heads, bustling markets, swahili everywhere, mambo! poa! vipi! safi! used clothing markets, piles of shoes, cardamon chai, sleep tight, mosquito netting, love love love the return. scotland: plaid. masaii men: plaid.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

International Theater Literacy Project in Tanzania 2009

I think I might have been the luckiest teaching artist on the planet this summer. I spent two weeks in Scotland on a teaching artist exchange with the Scottish Arts Council through Columbia College Chicago, and then I spent five weeks in Tanzania (East Africa) as part of a team of teaching artists with the International Theater Literacy Project, led by Marianna Houston, on an exchange via Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, Chicago, IL. Along with 7 other teaching artists, we were paired up to led a 2 1/2 week theater project with amazing young students from Nkoanrua and Akeri Secondary Schools, located outside of Arusha near Tengeru/Patandi.

Teaching poetry and theater in Tanzania was one of the most extraordinary teaching artist experiences of my life. I'll be writing about it in more formal ways, but for now I wanted to post some pictures of the process and the people, so that everyone can get a feel for the work. At some point, I plan to write more about our poetry writing process. One of the main poetic structures taught was the Pantoum -- not at all of African origins, but the circle structure worked so well for our play, and the students really got into it, writing both individual and collaborative poems shaped around questions that punctuated our performance piece. Who am I? One day, where shall I go?

After a week of writing and experimenting with theater structures, we produced a play called "The Four Karina's Ask Their Questions" - a coming of age play about a young girl whose questions lead her on a journey through a Forest of Mirrors, to a Monster of Lies, and a Community of Survivors of HIV, who help her understan complex issues surrounding health, sexuality, and relationships. We performed this play near Patandi Teachers College near Tengeru market with 3 other ensembles and a wonderful primary school -- St. Margaret's -- who performed a Midsummer Night's Dream -- amazing ITLP theater festival! We also performed this play at their secondary school. Extraordinary experience, every minute.

The theater festival was all about the dizzying joy of completing an artistic process in community. Incredible love and talent all around! Thanks to Lee Sunday Evans, my teaching partner, Julie Simpson, ED of Urban Gateways, Marianna Houston, of ITLP, and the MacArthur Foundation for making this experience possible for me. I am completely humbled and grateful for the opportunity. Much love to my students, too! I miss you!

I will post some of our students' wonderful poems soon. For now, enjoy these photos! For more information about the International Theater Literacy Project, check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Particle Monologues with Grangemouth High School

Particle Monologues found its way to a high school in Grangemouth, Scotland! I had the pleasure of working with the wordsmith Elspeth Murray along with Grangemouth High School librarian Joyce Barnes and her incredible students to arrange and rearrange their particle monologues into collaborative poems, which were then transcribed into a poetry installation at the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh! We did a collaborative arranging exercise, stream of consciousness writing, and shared our poems back to one another in a two hour workshop that could have gone on all day. Thanks to Grangemouth students for such wonderful energy, spirit, and questions. I miss you!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

If.When.Then Remix: Post-Writing @ Crown Last Day

RULE: Think back to the If.When.Then Surrealist Conditionals game. This time, using everything you know about poetry rules and techniques, write a poem that borrows from the conditionals construct.

If I was invisible,
I would still be right here.
I might even be the one who caused you to shed tears.
You might be able to see me as a ghost
I could be a horrifying imaginary television host.
I could walk right beside you in the night,
Go deep inside your body and commit suicide with all my might.
If I was alive, I might still be dead.
When I'm lying there unconsciously, please don't be sad.
If I'm reading this right and you think I'm actually here,
Don't be confused because I am a Black African American,
a ghost from the past years.

By Shiara Jackson

If I fall in love,
you are the one.
If we break up,
tears will come.
If I wonder why,
tears will dry.
If someone else comes,
they'll heal my heart.
But I don't know when
my love for you will stop.

by Jasmine H.

If earth would stand still,
then roses would smell like dooky,

If I were a jelly bean,
then frogs would float.

When school is over,
then rocks would turn to liquid.

When the snow shines,
Then quarters turn into time.

If grass was orange,
then smoke would become pain.

If shadows come out of walls,
then there would be no zombies.

If love turns into like,
Then there would be no more hearts to fill.

If snow turns into a river,
Then pillows would feel like bricks.

When aliens come to Earth,
They will suffer.

If school stops teaching,
There will be no more brains to fill.

By Rodney Scott

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Experiment Translating Equations


GIRL (to the second power) (-protection + boy)



We're all here together
No one's around
Don't know what to do
I can't make a sound
I know what they're up to
But I don't know if I'm down
She says one thing
And I say another
But we all really like each other.

After that night,
everything would never be the same.
I might lose my life,
Even my game.
I don't know what to do,
I'm in so much pain.
The doctor told me
We just can't be together.
I got something --
a disease called VD.


I am when boys
never use protection.
I am when boys go
from girl to girl to girl
I am when he give it to her
and she give it to him
and on and on and on.
I am the most deadly
dramatic and dumbest
disease: HIV.


I am the STD
One day there was this boy
who sleep with different girls
and without using protection
which is when
I formed inside
of this boy's body
who sneaks up
in different girls' bodies
of those who have
unprotected sex
and unsolved deaths.


Girls using no
protection will feel
bad at the end
either sick or with

Girls using no
protection will regret
what they did.

Girls using no
protection will suffer
with pain and sorrow.

Girls using no
protection and
boyz not using their
brain will both suffer
in pain.


Brave boy is friends
with gorgeous girl.
Brave boy hangs out
with gorgeous girl.
They spend time together.
Brave boy and gorgeous girl
hold hands in the park.
They become close.
Brave boy doesn't
use protection, brave boy
and gorgeous girl consume
a disease. Brave boy
blames gorgeous girl.
Gorgeous girl breaks up
with brave boy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Experiment New Math by Crown Students (based on the work of artist Craig Damrauer)


crime - black man


by Joshua E.

GUN SHOT = run + down + (run and duck)

FIGHT = push + punch + run + I will fight you

by Elijon

FIGHT = talk - dislike / I hate you - step back x (police) + (trouble) x (embarrassed)

GUNSHOT = duck + down / cry x funeral - mother lost her baby

by Tyrone S.

JUSTICE = law - crime / living for good

FREEDOM = free - enslaved / fighting for freedom

by Corey F.

STREETS = violence + drugs + money (-peaceful)

JUSTICE = fighting for good + law - killing / hero

by Eric G.

RELATIONSHIP = love x crying + depressed to the 5th power + (anger squared) + hope + (pregnant) x girl/boy + baby weight x (offspring)

DREAM = hope x happiness - faith

by Keon G.

CONFUSED = I don't know what to do - I didn't make up my mind

HATE = (no love) + (stop talking to me) + (you have no place in my heart)

STREET = money + power + respect + drugs + homeless + prostitution

by Jaquanna W.

STREET = thugs + drugs - love

by India J.

UNKNOWN = not knowing + (need squared + to know) - never knew + why?

by Sabrina F.

RECESSION = (-job) + (-home) + tears

by Jimone S.

2009 = me + age + smart 4th + cool 5th + funny 6th + bad 7th

by Deandre F.


(trust) + (friends)


by Carnail A.

EXHAUSTED = no air + suffocating + tired + you can't breathe

MISERABLE = lonely to the 21st power - friends to the 19th power + nothing to do

by Rodney S.

FIGHT = bloody nose squared + fears + weapons + hearse + 20 to life - your future + more tears

ENEMIES = I don't like you (to the seventh power) divided by Why are you so mean to me? - friendliness

by Nicole S.

FIGHT = 2(anger) + (fist) 4 divided by reality

IMPOSSIBLE = Imagination to the 10th power + dreams - reality

by Leroy C.

EMOTION = feelings - happiness + hard time

by Rodney S.

FIGHT = punches + blood - a clean face

by Devonta A.

FIGHT = slap + pulling hair - cafe

by India J.

HATE = disrespect + attitude - love

by Felicia T.

POOR = - home - money - hope

by Sabrina F.

LOVE = happy + sweet - hurt x true love

by Danielle

LOVE = sorrow - strong affection - (lust)(hate)

by Michelle W.

FIGHT = punching + kicking - teeth

MR. ALBRECHT = tall - disresepectful + committed to being a math teacher x compassionate to the 5th power

by Shiara J.

BROKEN-HEARTED = sad + crying + confused - happy - love life - relationship

by Danielshe

FIGHT = loser + winner - happy + consequences

PREGNANT = girl/boy - baby weight + offspring

by Tyleisha L.

HURT = cries + pain to the 2nd power - heart divided by love

by Tatyana S.

DECISION = consequence + choice x action

by Carnail A.

HATE = anger + rage - love

by Booker F.

RUN = push + down - here I come

Tyrone S.

GOD = (people / belief ) + religion

TEACHER = homework + friends / school x graduation

by Tyrell W.

FIGHT = hand / revenge + anger

by Kewon P.

LOVE = pain to the 3rd power + decision / thoughts - what anyone thinks

by Jasmine H.

BABY = friend + girlfriend - love

Experiment Try My Idea by Crown Algebra Students

Directions by Nicole Smith:

Close your eyes and think of a food. It can be whatever food you want.

If you thought of a healthy food, multiply the number of vowels by 2. If it's a junk food, multiply the vowels by 5.

Once you multiplied your food vowels, write a poem with a squared number of multiplied vowels.

When you're done, stand up.

When you stand up, shout, "hurray!"


6 squared=36
36 vowels

I have a decision to make.
It's not all fun and cake.
to do my stop tomorrow,
or go to a funeral with sorrow. Sorrow.


by Tyleshia Lynn

Felicia Townsel's Rules

Go in the hall
Walk 3 squares
Then jump however many times
the number of letters in your name.
Untie your shoe.
Write a poem
about the first thing you see
After doing this.

Results by Shiara Jackson

My stomach is turning upside down
It feels as if my world is crashing around.

I feel kind of weak inside and out
My legs are wiggling and I'm about to sprout.

Now I realized I shouldn't have jumped so much
And right now, I can hardly think about lunch.

Shiara Jackson's Rules:

You have to repeat the word amazing 5 times.
The number of letters in your name is the number of words per line.
Your poem has to be about your favorite president of the United States, past or present.

Results by Felicia Townsel:


He is amazing, just so, so amazing
People be praisin' him, just just praisin' him
Cause he is just so, so amazing
He is Obama. I love him like
my momma. Cause he just so amazing.
Obama is amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing.

Demario's Rules:

Walk 20 steps.
Turn to the right.
Write about the first thing you see.

Results by Tyrell:

The thing that I
see is the dream.
They say it is one
And he say we all
have one dream.
And they say


Kewon Pettis' Rules

Figure out when Mr. Albrecht was born.
Add up the numbers of that year.
That number will equal the number of words in your poem.
Find the letter in the alphabet that goes with each number of the year.
Look up and write down the first thing you see.
Every line of your poem will start with the letters that go with the numbers.
Your poem is about the first thing you see.

Results by Demario:

1+9+7+6 = 23

The first thing that I see is a book about eggs.

A+ on that summary about the book about eggs.
I hate eggs.
G is the last two letters of
the word egg.
Friday, we'll be finished with
the book about eggs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Walk on the Beach -- a group poem by 2nd graders @ Columbus Elementary School May 2009

On The Beach

I saw an igloo made of ink in India.
Peter saw purple pollen on a banana peel.
I found fifty fingers in Florida.

Carlos caught classy schools with high cholesterol
But Cindy was cold with crabs, caught creatures
In the sea – coconut caught Carlos’ attention.

I found a ruby.

I do want to see you.
I do not want to see you cry.

I found sea turtles.
I found shark bones.

Van on the beach.
Violin on the beach.
Violets on the beach.
Violas on the beach.

George guarded the garden.

I found schools, and sharks, and starfish and shells and seven squares.
I found a net of nickels, one hundred pennies and a parakeet.

People push people – all people – every day – until they push.

I found a nun, preying.
I found jam and jello and jacks and Joe and jelly beans and Jupiter and jeans and justice.

I saw a turtle and the turtle was big.
I found a turtle in the water.

I found a jelly sandwich and a jack in the box.
I found ants and angels and apples on the beach.
I found pretzels and parents and Paul’s pencils, pickles, popcorn, and pants.
I found a cat fish.
I found a shell in the sand.

I found a beach ball and boats and volleyballs and last but not least, bathing suits.

I found a girl standing in the water.
My brother bought boats, breakfast in bowls.

I found a concert ticket with a backstage pass with a key next to it.
I found a koala swimming with a kangaroo.
A snake slithered somewhere.

By Columbus Elementary School 2nd grade class with Ms. Pino -- 2009

Swahili Proverbs/Kanga Sayings in East Africa -- Columbus Students Write Their Own Sayings!

In East Africa, the kanga cloth dominates the fashion landscape. These brightly pattenered textiles all feature a poetic phrase/proverb printed at the bottom of the cloth, and often use metaphor and colorful language to express abstract meanings and interpretations of social reality. Kanga cloths are often traded or purchased for friends and family both for the sheer beauty of the cloth, but also to communicate messages embedded or implied by the poetic phrase on the cloth. In this way, the kanga is used as a poetic note silently passed between two people, a form of potent, indirect communication between two people having an on-going conversation. In this way, poetry and poetics plays a major role in the daily conversation of East Africa. Columbus students studied Swahili proverbs found on Kanga cloths, and then we took a turn at creating our own phrases.

Here are a few by 3rd graders:

If money falls from the sky, then help the homeless.

If you see a robber, use god's power to stop him.

If you had no mother, you would not be alive.

If your blood is hot, then you will fade.

If you play the piano, then angels will sing.

If you got hit by a car, you will turn to metal.

If you touch a thorn, you will run out of blood.

If you had no heart, then you have nothing but hatred.

When you are injured, you will heal.

When an elephant is running toward you, you will die.

If you ever find your dog, then you should live with him.

If all the clouds fall down, we will all blow up.

A small fear turns into a nightmare.

A small world can be bigger than you think.

If you don't listen, your ears will turn very big.

If people had magic, noone would have to work.

If you ran really fast, you'd travel all around.

If my mother was down, then I would have to be up.

If thunder is following you, grab the thunder and throw it back to the sky.

When you stomp your feet, you'll find a dollar.

If my brain was red, then my world would be red.

Without bones, you are made of jello.

Without your brain, you would just be dead.

If the earth was just water, we would all drown.

If you read "yam" backwards, you would know it was made in May.

With no mother, I would not live at all.

If friendship does not work, I will find a new friend.

When our teachers leave us, we will cry a pool of water.

Without the sun, there is not life.

Without gravity, we go to the moon.

A little is enough to be whatever you want.

If I see god, then I would die to live with him.

Singing too loud breaks glass.

If our grandfathers lived again, we would protect them so they wouldn't die.

If I look long enough at the star, I would become the star.

If we change the date, we get to eat the cake.

If you don't have a plan, you don't have a train.

If our grannies come back to life, let's take care of them.

If you really love your favorite color, then be your favorite color.

If you run really fast, you will turn very old.

If I die, then I will continue in my dead mansion.

If I have love, I will keep it a secret.

If the Sears Tower tilts, I will leave Chicago.

Even if we get into a scramble here, you will still be my sweet love.

If you wonder too hard, you won't find your way.

If you fly, you can touch the sky.

Clever people have brains.

Being lucky is like singing the song of your life.

Don't set sail when I say to set sail.

You build someone else's place, you feel greatness in your heart.

Me and you find great happiness.

If someone shouts, then noone dies.

If life dies, then god will die.

If there was no moon, there would be no beauty.

Earth will die when time stops.

If fire hits you, you will become it.

If you get born the love will stay.

If you point at the rainbow, the love will come true.

If you make a bird, you will never forget.

You should pick life over death.

If I had a sword, I'd use it for justice.

When you read, spells will come out of the book.

If you stare at a bee, you might get eye contact.

If you have the might, you might get the fight.

If you are a nice person, I will love you.

If your dad is sick, what will you do?And a few by 2nd graders:

If you see a bug, you should be brave.

If you love someone, keep it to yourself.

If you stop talking, you will become a king or queen.

If you dream of a spider, you should make it real.

Even if you fly away, you will come back.

If you really learn something, you will never forget it.

If you can love, then you can help.

If you see a bird, you should sing to it.

If I count to ten, I will get sophistication.

If you disobey the law, admit it to make justice.

If I get wasted in the USA, I would be reborn in Canada.

If you claim a rainbow, you'll find gold.

If you buy a present for your mom, she will never forget that.

If your parents point at the rainbow, you will see the future.

If my mom and dad grow, I will grow.

If I swim with the shark, I will turn into a shark.

I if I love, then I will get love back.

If I die, then I would come back to earth so I can relive my life again.

If I kill a bear, then I will turn into it.

People push people – all people – every day – until they push.

African Praise Poems @ Columbus Elementary School May 5, 2009

In today's workshop, we learned about the African Praise Poem. In these poems, a call and response pattern reveals the revelatory and spiritual voice of the poet. The alternating lines can include conditions of entry into the world, unusual features of a birth, geneology or kinship affiliations, geographical affiliations with a place, elements of the natural world, totems (animals, plants, natural objects), an important past experience or unusual accident, and/or special "age-mates" to whom the person is bonded. Each line contains a name or phrase, uses metaphor or simile, pays careful attention to rhythm and sound, and uses call and response. Here are the poems written by incredible 3rd graders at Columbus Elementary School in Ukrainian Village -- I'm a poet in residence there through Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education. This is a 6 week residency and we're focusing on Tanzania/african poetry & proverbs.

I am here
Sleeping dark night
I am here
Spending money
I am here
Eating polish food
I am here
Playing video games
I am here
Learning poetry
I am here
Reading books
I am here
Werewolf howl moon
I am here


I am there
Loud, noisy, windy
I am there
Surrounded by noise
I am there
I yell to the spirit of the cheetah
I am there
Flying with birds
I am there
I can guide the animals
I am there
Riding in a car
I am there sleeping with a squirrel
I am there
Swimming with a shark
I am there

Adam W.

What I Say

Listen to me
You cry
Listen to me
Be happy
Listen to me
Go to your room
Listen to me
Don’t be sad
Listen to me
Be glad always
Listen to me
It’s just as easy
To smile as cry
Listen to me
You can win
Listen to me


I am here
Resting in peace
I am here
Starving to death
I am there
Protecting our country
I am here
Helping people like Jesus did
I am here
Drawing religion
I am here
Helping people from dying
I am here
Playing Devil May Cry
I am here
In a game zone
I am here

Sebastian S.


Concentrate, I see it coming
I won’t hit it, but I have to –
It’s getting closer and closer
My muscles get tight
I have to hit it SMACK ---
It’s gone – HOMERUN!
I’m up again, muscles getting tighter
And concentrate. And closer and
Closer and SMACK another
Closer and closer and gone HOMERUN!
Up again, SMACK
Out in the field – SMACK
Inside, HOMERUN! Oh my gosh,
Up again, and whooping the Cub’s butt.
Now Armani is getting ready
Muscles tight, SMACK inside
HOMERUN again!


Dark brown eyes
Be still
Dark brown
Be still
Calling upon all spirit animals
Be still

Jacob G.

I am here
I have to talk
I am here
On fast, busy highways
I am here
Light or dark
I am here
Call on the snake spirit
I am here
In the game zone
I am here
Beating up Max
I am here
Watching wrestling
I am here

Denys K.

Stay here
In the wars of Halo
Stay here
Sleeping in heaven
Stay here
In underground tunnels
Stay here
Soaring with the birds
Stay here
Fighting with anger
Stay here
Jumping high in the sky
Stay here
Snowboarding on cliffs
Stay here
Running with the cheetah
Stay here

Sebastian G.

I’m alive
Jumping in the air
I’m alive
Hitting thunder
I’m alive
Drinking hot fire
I’m alive
A thunder strike
I’m alive
From a gun shot
I’m a live

Eric G.

I will survive
Alive in the north
I will survive
Soaring through the clouds
I will survive
Jumping out of a plane
I will survive
Light like the burning sky
I will survive
Never give up
I will survive
My spirit calls to the werewolf
I will survive
Floating through space
I will survive
The sky is red
I will survive


I’m Still Right Here

I’m still right here
With my friends
I’m still right here
Covered with love
I’m still right here
Can you see me?
I’m still right here
Do you listen to me?
I’m still right here
Listen to my heart
I’m still right here.

Melisa F.

Listen to me
My heart is broken
Listen to me
I am talking
I am here
Listen to me
I am hurt
Listen to me
My power’s of the jungle
Listen to me
Don’t lie
Listen to me
You hurt me
Listen to me
You lie
Listen to me
Flying with birds

Xochitl R.

I’m still right here
Look at me
I’m still right here
Can you see me?
I’m sill right here
I don’t think you can see me
I’m still right here
Can anybody see me?
I’m still right here
You are not listening
I’m still right here
In my mother’s stomach
I’m still right here
Bored in my bed
I’m still right here
Reading a book
I’m still right here


Hear me
Roar with the lions
Hear me
Sing with the birds
Hear me
Pat my chest with the gorillas
Hear me
Shout with the monkeys
Hear me
Stomp with the kangaroos
Hear me
Splash water with the whales
Hear me
Fight with the jungle
Hear me


I am here
Listening to people driving their cards
I am here
Telling my dog Mazzy and Star to come here
I am here
Don’t ignore me
I am here
Swimming with my spirit animal, the dolphin
I am here

Jasmine V.

Flying with a bird
I’m still right here

Singing a song
I’m still here

Can anybody hear me?
I’m still right here

Being in bed
I’m still right here

Sleeping at home
I’m still right here

I’m still here

Jumping on my bed
I’m still right here

Playing with my friends
Divine and Kelly

I’m still here

Jasmine Q.

When I am here
I will care for you.

When I am here,
Your fears will forever be gone.

When I am here
You will never give up.

When I am here,
The tiger will lead us there.

When I am here,
I’ll send you flowers every week.

Myron N.

Listen to me
I’ll make a difference
Listen to me
I’ll keep you by my side
Listen to me
I will help you
Listen to me
I’ll make dreams come true
Listen to me

I am here
No fear of me
I am here
We are here together
I am here
You have talent
I am here
I am here
To help you
I am here


Help the poor
Live life
Help the poor
Make a miracle
Help the poor
Help the difference
Help the poor
Make a life
Help the poor
Take care of them
Help the poor
Be the difference
Help the poor


Never Back Down Like a Lion

Never back down
The spirit lion
Never back down
Soar with the Teradacthil
Never back down
The moon draws me
Never back down
Moving from place to place
Never back down
Fast like a cheetah
Be strong
Never back down
Be cool
Never back down
Do good in school
Never back down
Have fun with it
Never back down
Be calm
Never back down

Deangelo J.

Break a leg
Stop it
Drawn into the fire
Stop it
Dragon fly stinging
Stop it
Loud thunder
Stop it
Shut up when I’m talking to you
Stop it

Brandon S.

I’m still right here
Covered in green
I’m still right here
Flying with a bird
I’m still right here
In my mother’s stomach
I’m still right here
Under my covers
I’m still right here
In the hospital
I’m still right here
Do you see me?
I’m still right here.

Kelly M

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Experiment 4.16 -- What Are You Doing?

During our April 16th session, we learned the "what are you doing" performance/improv game. Students took turns acting out the directions given by their partner, while still performing the one given to them. This generated a whole list of interesting verbs, which we then turned into poems we considered "versions of me."

Here's a great poem by Nicole:

I am drowning in my own
sad disposition of hate and anger

I am giving birth to life; life that
cannot be put back.

I am riding a dragon to the never
ending story.

I am spinning in a tight circle.

-- by Nicole S.

I'm playing football with the Michael Jackson glove on
I'm fighting a snake
I'm having a seizure
I'm singing
I'm skipping around
I'm lying on hot rocks

-- by Danielshe

Experiment Always/Never @ Crown April 30, 2009

In today's workshop, students broke up into gender-specific groups and had to come up with 10 "rules for being a guy" and "rules for being a girl" -- not necessarily that they agreed with, but ones that were understood as part of our culture/society. Here's an example of what everyone came up with in smaller groups:

Rules for Being a Girl

cross your legs when wearing a skirt/dress
dont' be too loud
keep your appearance up
never slouch
don't gossip
never be alone with a boy in a room
no fighting
don't have a lot of boyfriends
don't be nasty
don't be fast
don't do drugs
don't drink
respect yourself
girls mature faster than boys

Rules for Being a Boy

be strong
don't cry
be respectful
talk proper
be helpful
be all you can be
be a role model
be a leader
don't hit girls
keep a hair cut
don't skip or scream
take out the garbage
never cross your legs
don't wear make up

As a class, we read Jamaica Kincaid's famous piece "GIRL" -- about what it was like for the writer to grow up as a girl in Haitian culture. We briefly discussed the meaning of her words and experience and now everyone's assignment is to turn their group rules into individual poems that begin with:

This is how to...

This assignment is due next week. I look forward to reading these powerful poems!

Experiment Chalk Out Loud April 30, 2009

Today, the amazing Algebra students worked together to piece together a small spoken word piece related to thoughts/feelings on RULES. We returned to our chalk talk days to select interesting lines and bits of text. Students memorized their lines and work in trios to set an order to their lines. Here's a copy of our script in progress:

BOYS: Promise
GIRLS: Commitment
BOYS: Participate
GIRLS: Community
BOYS: Function
GIRLS: Discipline
BOYS: Oath
GIRLS: Directions
BOYS: Boundaries
GIRLS: Repercussions

RODNEY: Silent reading – it’s a waste of 20 minutes because nobody silently reads 4 real.
DEMARIO: Look both ways – or you will get hit by a car.
JOSHUA: [------]
TYRELL: I don’t like the walk the dog rule, but I have to do it or else she’ll pee everywhere!
LEROY: I hate it when other people don’t do the dishes.
KHARI: It’s hard because sometimes I want to learn from my own mistakes -- not from yours.
TATYANA: There are different things that might happen to you when you don’t follow rules or by not listening. People have their own ways of dealing with it – depending on what they did or done.
DENEISHA: I got in big trouble for leaving my little sister at home while I was out with my friends. She was only 7 years old!
DANIELSHE: My mom slapped me for lying to her and she stopped giving me money.
SHIARA: I love school. To me, it’s not a waste of time. Do you like it?
TYLEISHIA: I hated it when I was your age, teachers were bossy, but now…I have good memories.
FELICIA: I hate school too. Sometimes I think about dropping out – at least most of the time!
JASMINE: Even though you are legally grown, at that age too much freedom could be a problem.
BOOKER: Stop looking at me, alright?
CARNAIL: Even though I don’t like rules, I think that we should have them for a lot of reasons.

Students also swapped invented directions for writing poems today and have one week to complete the assignment devised by a fellow classmate. I can't wait to see how this goes! These students are brilliant.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Experiment One, Two, Three @ Crown April 23, 2009

When Elly Goodman, a theater artist and educator from Scotland, came to visit us in Chicago, she taught us a great theater warm up where two people count back and forth up to 3. Then we replaced one with a snap. Learned that pattern. Replaced two with a clap, learned that pattern. Last, we were asked to replace three with a move/sound of our own. The students @ Crown really enjoyed this game. So today we turned that theater exercise into a poetry exercise. Students started with three words, and then step by step substituted one word for another until they created an entire sequence of poetic lines.

free police station
stay police station
stay in station
stay in the game

by Kewon P.

pretty good eat
mad good eat
mad sing eat
mad sing adventures

by India J.

dead hate forgotten
tears hate forgotten
tears die forgotten
tears die before laughter

by Nicole S.

young, smart, fly
young, cool, fly
young, cool, stop
young, cool, stop hating

by Jiome S.

pow, stop dead
bang, stop dead
bang run dead
bang run cry

by Deandre F.

care friends trust
happy friends trust
happy boom trust
happy boom an angel

by Tyleisha L.

love hurts slow
falling hurts slow
falling happens slow
falling happens fast

by Jasmine H.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Traveler Poem -- April 22 @ Columbus

Thanks to the amazing poet, Elspeth Murray, currently residing in Edinburgh, Scotland, who tipped me off to the work of George MacKay Brown, we read "Beachcombers" and followed his form to write traveler poems of our own.

The Scary Desert

Monday I saw snakes hissing at me.
They were following me and they
were hissing so they can eat in half.

Tuesday I saw a camel stampeding
at me so it can trample me.
I ran so I couldn't get trampled.

Wednesday I saw some spiders.
They were shooting webs at me.
But this time the spider got me.

Thursday I saw a big hole.
I stepped inside it and a tarantula hit me.
I was hurt bad and poisoned.

Friay I saw a rattle snake
rattling its tail.
It was coming toward me, I ran away.

Saturday I saw a lot of
animals attacking.
That was a scare.

by Adam W.

Incredible snippets:

Friday I saw a space
I realized it was mine.

Sunday I found myself
in a bowl that was much bigger than me.
It was all filled with gold.

by Vitaliy D.

Watching movies, hitting
the t.v., I saw a ghost
in the wrestling ring.

by Sebastian G.

Tuesday I heard
a song
kiss me through
the phone.

Monday -- I was on an island, lost.
I grew a long beard. I had to
bite on it to cut it. Then I
could not do anything. I could not
eat, catch, fish, or sleep.

by Brandon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Experiment: Rule-Making/Team Work @ Crown April 16, 2009

Today, the algebra/theater group broke up into two teams. Their challenge was to devise a series of directions for the other team that would result in some sort of poetic outcome. The group decided to split according to gender -- boys and girls in two separate teams. They had 4 minutes to devise the directions/rules. Once devised, the teams swapped directions and had an additional 10 minutes to execute the directions given to them.


1. Walk the circle (there was a circle in the room drawn on the floor). Find the diameter of that circle and that will equal the # of words per line.

2. Think of your birth month. The number of letters in your birth month is the # of lines in your poem.

3. Then come up with 3 emotions and that is the poem's theme.


I was mad at my friend because
she lied and made me feel sad.
But now she apologized and we're ok,
Not doing great, but I'm not mad.
She left me hanging in the dark
And now our relationship has a spark.
Now it's over, we talked it through.
But now our friendship is seriously true.

written by Tyleisha

I hate being this way, I cry and

Everyday I look into different
parts of my life.

It's full of silent dark. When
you look

into my eyes, I feel hurt and
despised. So

go away, leave me alone and don't
call my

phone. Today is not the day
So go home.

written by Shiara

Depressed, you could say, is how I feel.
Excited is how I feel the day after that.
I'm sad the days I can't have my way.
Today is the day I can't have my way.
So how do I feel? Well, sad of course.
I can't recall a time where I was depressed.

written by Tatyana

Look and stare and wonder why
sad, upset
Do you know why you are really mad?
Cheer up -- get glad, about the things you do
Sad, cheer up, get glad
Stay on your head

written by Jasmine

I am so mad right about now.
I am so mad that it makes
me sad, I hate being sad, man.
I'm so sad until I'm just mad.
I don't know whether or not I'm
more of mad or more of sad.
I'm sad and mad to say that
say that I'm indeed confused today.

(9 lines -- 7 words per line)

written by Denisha


Add up all the # of letters in each person's name in your group. After you do that, you must then divide that number by the number of people in your group. Then when you have figured that # out, then figure out what position that # is in the alphabet (ie: 7=G). Then write a poem beginning with that letter as a group.


Total # of letters in all the group member names = 42
Divided by 7 people in the group = 6

Friday is fun
for friends
who like to
fry french fires
on a freezy day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Experiment: Name Squared -- Day One @ Crown Part II

What's a poem, squared? After a conversation on rules -- inventing them, breaking them, knowing them, we decided to count the letters in our names and write poems that was equal to that number, squared -- as many lines as words per line. We also discussed the reason why we call something "squared" -- remembering the actual shape of a square and denoting base x height. We reviewed the notion of "function rules" and "substitutions" and listed the various modes of expression -- algebraic, concrete, numerical, verbal, and graphical -- making ties between those forms of expression in math and the ways in which our poetry/theater connected.

Here are a few examples of NAMES SQUARED!

L E R O Y (5)

say hi and good bye
see you again another time
when life is just right
see you in high school
see you in college years

T A T Y A N A (7)

Tatyana is a thirteen year old girl.
She is a creation to the world.
She's brilliant, talented, and funny. And sometimes,
her nose is a little runny. I
really like Tatyana. She's a really cool
person. She lights up my day. She
makes me feel great. I love Tatyana.

K H A R I (5)

When I think of me,
I think proud and free.
Love, faith, and belief is
a part of you and me.
Don't cry -- your hopes fly.

T Y L E S H I A (8)

I am short, silly, and really kind, small.
Every day I wonder if I were tall.
I am little, but I have a big
Dream. A dream that is more than it
May seem. I am a cool person to
be around. I like to walk and shop
all over town. So I am true and
me, the best that I can always be.

D E N I S H A (7)2

I really dn't know what to do.
This whole thing has me feeling blue.
I feel like I'm about to cry
but I'm holding the tears back in
my eyes. What's wrong with me, I
say to myself as I hold my
tears. Then I think I'm going away.

N I C O L E (6)

In the dark, scared and alone.
Where am I going now, friend?
If that is your real name.
You don't understand! The pressure's on!
I must fight this mirror fight
with the girl I don't like.

Experiment: If.When.Then @ Crown -- Day One

Day One @ Crown

Conditional Exercise -- if/when/then in pairs

If I was a mountain,
then you would be an orange.

If I was a can,
then we would all live on the moon.

If I was pink,
then I would fly above the moon.

If chocolate tasted like mice,
then we would go swimming.

If you stop licking your lips,
then you will wear tight pants.

If I drove a car,
then I would leave.

If the world spun very fast,
then bubbbles would be blue.

If my head was big,
then I would get married.

If I die today,
then I won't see another tomorrow.

If I was a tree,
then I would cry.

If I get an A in math class,
then pizza will always be for breakfast.

If I was a boy,
then I would die.

If I turned to page 6,
then I will cry.

If I was to eat an apple,
then I would fall.

If I read a book,
then tigers would sleep in my classroom.

If I see Ms. Amanda,
then I would break a pencil.

If I ran outside,
then I would sleep forever.

If I ride horse,
then I will wish upon a star.

If I were to cut myself,
then I would be sure to smile.

If a giant learned algebra,
then you would get smaller.

If you look on the sole of your shoe,
then flowers will bloom.

If my leg didn't hurt,
then blue would be purple.

If I had a million dollars,
then I am going to dig a tunnel to Australia.

If I was Jamaican,
I would buy you a wig.

If you fly,
I will die.

If I fall off the bridge,
then I'll never know the real truth.

If I tie my shoe,
then I will marry J.

If I was to fly like a bird,
then you have to dance silly.

If I was the sky,
then you'd have to do the lean wit-it, rock wit-it.

If I was the moon,
I'd dress nicely.

If you start crying,
I will cheer you up.

If I were you,
then I'd lose myself in the world.

If two stars cross in the night,
then I will leave you.

If the world was no longer a world,
I'd wear my socks all at the same time.

If god hears my prayer,
I'll go the store and buy pigs' feet.

If I call you tonight,
then we could go to sleep.

If I beat someone up,
we'd go to sleep at dawn.

If I went to sleep,
then you would turn purple.

If I was blind,
you'd wake up wheezy.

If I go to school,
then I'll love you forever.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Surealist Conditionals -- Absurdist Logic


For months I've been obsessed with this quote by Mexican poet Roberto Juarroz. I started writing it everywhere – as the signature to my email, on notes to friends, and in little spots around my office. It was the kind of idea that was planted like a seed and grew a thousand branches. I started thinking about absence and presence, energy and transformation. What is fleeing exactly? How do we know when we get there? And what gets lost along the way?

The line haunted me. A few months later, when fellow Break Arts artist Leah Sobsey and I began talking about leading text and image workshops with HABLA in Merida, I knew I wanted to use this poem in some way to organize our workshops. In many conversations between Greensboro and Chicago, Leah and I started making connections between the ideas in Juarroz's poem and the antique photographic process of cyanotypes, one of Leah's favorite photographic processes. Just as Juarroz's poem pushes the reader to think about fullness and emptiness, absence and presence, so do cyanotypes, which depend on the energy and heat of the sun to reveal or hide images placed on sheets of chemically coated fabric or paper. A transformation happens. Both the poem and the process itself asks us -- simply put -- what makes a thing – a thing? Where does its essence reside?

Leah and I began to plan a text and image workshop that would include a poetry warm up, close analysis and discussion of a poetic text, and the cyanotype process. Traditionally, cyanotypes entailed placing objects from the natural world onto treated paper, exposing the paper to sunlight, and removing those objects to reveal its after-image. But Leah explained the magic of using transparencies and black sharpies to write or copy text, placing it flat onto treated paper, making it possible to expose original handwriting and poetic text. The possibilities were endless and we couldn't wait to try this with workshop participants.

For the poetry warm up, we wanted to play with the idea of "conditionals" or "poetic logic" to fuel our thinking about absence and presence. We decided to play a Surrealist game in which two players invent poetic sentences by one player creating an "if/when" phrase and the other deciding on a "then" phrase without knowing or seeing the other half. To play this game, you can either write your part down or simply think it. When both players have decided on their part, the team reveals the thought in its entirety. You can also play this game by both players secretly writing an "if/when" phrase, folding or hiding it, trading their phrase with their partner, and completing a "then" phrase. No matter how you play, the idea is to generate surprising and audacious new language pairings that provoke new thinking about what makes a thought or an image whole.


Get into pairs and assign a Person A and a Person B.

Person A thinks of an “if/si or when/cuando” statement.

Ex: If a bird chirps or When a child fails

Person A does NOT tell Person B – they either think it or jot it down


Person B thinks of a “then/entonces” statement.

Ex: then all the leaves will fall or then I’ll have to wash the spoons.

Person B does NOT tell Person A yet – they either think it or jot it down.

When both Person A and Person B are ready – meaning they each have their secret phrase, they give each other a nod to reveal the conditional statement as a whole:

If a bird chirps
Then all the leaves will fall.

When a child fails,
Then I’ll have to wash the spoons.

The joy is in the audaciousness of surprising and unexpected connections. It’s fun for Person A and Person B to jot down the whole phrase before moving on to a next partner.

In the style of a salon, each person quickly finds a new partner, quickly decides who will think of an “if/when” and who will then of a “then” and begin again.

There are many variations on this exercise – and when working with children, it also works well if each child comes up with an “if/when” phrase on a sheet of paper. Each child also comes up with a “then” phrase. The children make two piles on the floor and then are invited to select one phrase from each pile to create surprising new phrases. That’s just one possibility out of many to make this exercise more hands on and interactive. You could also make a visible wall of “if/when” and “then” phrases and have students mix and match the phrases in pairs. The emphasis should be on the joy of outrageous pairings – constructing new meanings and images – and delighting in the results.

snowball experiments with 7

in honor of the number 7, being studied currently by 7th graders at marshall middle school, we're experimenting with the surrealist exercise in which a poem "snowballs" from one word to two words to three words to four words to five words to six words to seven words -- well, we're stopping at seven. you could go on and on i suppose. content is up to you, which makes it somewhat challenging to get started, but here are a few i came up with on the fly to show our students. not saying they are the best, but i will say the experiments were delightful and took me to another head space.




Is meant

For dangerous roads.

Take me with you.

We don't share the night.

I dream of you in gold.

You dream of me in green leaves.

You dream of me in green leaves.

I dream of you in gold.

We don't share the night.

Take me with you

On dangerous roads

Meant for



Our bellies

Bulge and cave

Depending on the season.

What if our minds outlive

Our bodies and we fail to

Remember our lives? Crave me, still.

Remember our lives? Crave me, still.

Our bodies and we fail to

What if our minds outlive,

Depending on the season.

Bulge and cave.

Our bellies




Don't know

Many things about

Me. You never asked.

Now you want to know.

I'll tell you later, but first:

Stand closer so you can really listen.

Stand closer so you can really listen.

I'll tell you later, but first:

Now you want to know.

Me. You never asked.

Many thing about

Don't know