Epic – by Nancy Ling

Nancy Ling is an Outreach Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. She is also an author and a poet and loves working with children and teens and teaching poetry. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Record.

It’s official. Fall is here as of today. This is when we ask each other questions such as where did the time go? Or what was your favorite summer memory? Surprisingly one of my best memories took place at the library. I know. It’s hard to believe. After all I did venture off to see black bears and whales in Alaska. What could beat that?

Well, the Teen Poetry Club came close. I had the privilege of introducing teens to a variety of poetic forms and several award-winning poets for five weeks. True, I was wondering who would sign up for this club. I mean, there are trips to the beach, visits to grandparents. I found the answer to that question on the first day—teens who are passionate about writing, and who are really, really good at it, too.

That said, I thought it was only appropriate that I share some of their work (with their permission, of course). I do this for two reasons: first, so you can be thoroughly impressed with the caliber of young writers here in Norwood, and second, so you may think about signing up for this workshop next summer.

Each time we covered a different topic in our workshop. Here’s a poem that one student, Lauren Swank, wrote during our first meeting. We were discussing the use of dreams and special places to jump start our writing when Lauren penned the following:

Dreams
Loud voices come from the excited crowd,
all of these sounds seem so loud.
Will he cooperate throughout the course?
Will he be a good little horse?
I look ahead at the obstacles before me.
All I am thinking about is he
who needs support because his head is down.
I tell him softly “a smile is better than a frown.”
A big horse trots on by.
My little horse seems so shy.
My horse looks up for he is towered
by the horse who has over-powered
my poor shire who is all alone
when the whistle blows he stands like stone.
I softly say “Just take your time”
and after that he seemed just fine.
He did the course in two minutes flat.
We walked past the rest and said “Beat That!”
The judges gave us a First Place prize and
I then could not believe my eyes.
Loud noises came from the excited crowd
and those noises made my shire seem so proud.

Here’s another dream-inspired poem by Dina Delic. She brings her reader right into the strange and stirring place of a dream, or nightmare as the case may be.

Breathe

Light flickers through,
blue-white like an old film,
and I see her,
silently staring at a wall
that
doesn’t
exist.
And I can see her closed lids,
see her struggling to breathe,
because her bone corset is laced too tight.
Her wings are tied up, and she wants to fly,
to feel the air on her skin,
but
she
can’t.
She is laced too tight.
Her corset won’t let her breathe.
Society won’t let her breathe.
The heavy damask curtains won’t let her breathe.
She wants out,
but she can’t get out,
can’t loosen the ribbons restraining her freedom.
The light flickers out,
and I can still see her,
struggling to be free.
To breathe.
Just breathe.
Breathe.

This one is a pantoum by Sara Harder. The poet J. Lorraine Brown came to our club to discuss this particular form. In case you want to try writing one, a pantoum as defined by Merriam Webster is “a series of quatrains rhyming abab in which the second rhyme of a quatrain recurs as the first in the succeeding quatrain, each quatrain introduces a new second rhyme (as bcbc, cdcd).”

Cookies

Sweet and tasty
Crunchy and round
Chocolate chip and peanut butter
Sugar cookies and almond rounds

Crunchy and round
Sticky dough on a baking tray
Sugar cookies and almond rounds
With sugar and flour and butter

Sticky dough on a baking tray
Cooling on a wire rack
With sugar and flour and butter
Mixing in a mixing bowl

Cooling on a wire rack
Chocolate chip and peanut butter
Mixing in a mixing bowl
Cookies, sweet and tasty

Another local poet, Jean Tupper, inspired the teens to write a list poem. After all, everyone has some kind of list. I’ve made my To-Do lists into poems now and then.
Often Haiku can appear deceptively easy. Short and sweet, right? But the students learned from poet, Fran Witham, that there are several key elements to haiku, including a reference to nature. This example is by Lauren Swank.

Frolicking in dandelions
Her head held high
She is free

Our final class was on ekphrastic poetry. JoAnne Preiser showed us famous works of art as inspiration for our own poems. Meenu Ravi write this poem:

Those Who Are

Our sorrows are of worlds whose patina shed
The laughter and beauty of all long lifeless
The saber of new old battles, the coronal of new queens
And jolly and simple and downhearted sorrows of me

With melody in our hands ever- shall we dance
All are our family, the world is our home
Where the voice of the wind sings my wandering feet
Through the echoing woods and the echoing street

What love shall we sow, what peace shall we gather
The voice of the breeze is the voice of our future fate
No love wishes us dawdle, no peace wishes us wait
Where the wind sings our wandering footsteps we go

So yes, when someone asks me what my best summer memory is, I tell them about my teenage poetry club. What started as the seed of an idea, grew into a spectacular experience. As a matter of fact, I think the teens had a pretty good time, too. After all, I received the ultimate compliment from them. Not only did they ask if we could do this again next summer (yah!),
but they told me it was “epic.” In teen lingo, that’s not too shabby. Then again, that’s something a few of us knew all along…poetry is definitely “epic!”

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