Thursday, March 21, 2002

What Did You Do Yesterday, Gail?

I was a workshop leader at the Statewide Student and Teacher Writing Conference at the University of Connecticut, if you really want to know. And I had a pretty good day, considering it was snowing and I'd forgotten what it's like to drag myself around a college campus in bad weather. The Conference was sponsored by the Connecticut Writing Project , an organization that promotes writing in schools.

Sara Holbrook, who is described as a performance poet, gave the opening address in a ballroom filled with five hundred sixth through twelth graders and teachers. (They had to turn away another two hundred people.) I had never heard of a performance poet before but I'll never forget the term because Holbrook's performance was fantastic. She spoke about her life as a poet and effortlessly slipped in poems in appropriate places. She writes poetry for children and young adults. (Actually, she has a couple of books out for adults, too.) Her work really illustrates how poetry can address emotions.

Last night I discussed her writing with a teenager. His reaction was that adults can't write about adolescent experience because they aren't adolescents. They no longer know what adolescent experience is. They aren't living it. I think he has a point. The whole issue of one group of people writing for another group they don't belong to does strike me as bizarre. I could go on and on about it. In fact, I did go on and on about it in an essay that will be published in English Journal. However, Holbrook's poetry in her book I Never Said I Wasn't Difficult addresses experiences I see teenagers I know living through. And certainly her work is proof that poetry can be about anything. Kids who love poetry and adults who love kids really ought to check her out.


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