Thanks to the generous support of Mass Poetry and the Burlington Cultural Council, poetry has been alive in the halls of BHS this fall. The BHS English Department facilitated its first-ever Poet-in-Residence program with the intent of helping students see the power of poetry, increase their appreciation for the art form, and support their skills-development in crafting and analyzing poetry independently.
We kicked off the Poet-in-Residence program in late October with a grade-level assembly for all freshmen in which internationally acclaimed poet Regie Gibson spoke to students about how poetry can be a source of joy – whether through reflection, creation, celebration, appreciation, connection, or analysis. Gibson then worked with this year’s freshman class in a series of generative workshops during their English periods. In each session, Gibson presented students with contextual and structural information about various poetic forms and engaged them in collaborative writing exercises designed to help them with their own craft. After the workshops, students created original “Hot 16” poems focused on the rhythmic and auditory properties of poetry and composed list poems based on Gibson’s “Things I Know” activity.
The success of the program was most evident in the first Listening Lunch of the school year when the upper library was full of freshmen eager to share their work with their peers in an open mic format. Students recited original poems about topics ranging from playing Minecraft to thinking about their connection to the earth. They applied the techniques Gibson gave them and added “poetry pepper” to their own stories.
In addition to working with BHS freshmen, Gibson is also supporting the BHS Tenacity Challenge team in their preparation for this year’s competition, providing performance tips to our poetry slam team, and judging this year’s Poetry Out Loud finals. We are exceptionally grateful for our partnership with Mass Poetry in this endeavor. With the help of Erica Charis-Molling, Education Director; Daniel Johnson, Executive Director; and Isaiah Frisbie, Events and Communications Coordinator; the BHS Poet-in-Residence program has been a great success.
A portion of this program was funded through grant money provided by the Burlington Cultural Council, which is a local agency funded by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. Their support of the arts and of BHS students made this program possible.