On Friday I was welcomed to the remarkable Holly School. My job there? To present new ways of looking at poetry to a class of Grade Sixes.
I gave the students a small project to work on, answered questions and shared poems by many writers. I was even allowed to give input on a couple of student poems that had been sent to me in advance of the class – little tweaks, like adding sensory images to strengthen the work.
One of the most exciting parts of the day came when the class was suggesting ways that poetry is different from other kinds of writing. As they offered ideas, I was recording them on the board. And then there was this, the topper: It has language that makes you say ‘mmmm’.
This visit was part of the Federation of B.C. Writers’ Off-the-Page program. Through that plan, writers are paid to work with students in schools. But really, this day paid me in ways richer than money.
After the class, I was met on the playground by children playing skipping-rope games. When the slapping of the rope triggered my own memories, they listened as I chanted: "Down in the valley where the green grass grows, there stands 'whoever', sweet as a rose. She sang, she sang, she sang so sweet…"
After that, a group of girls wanted me to watch while they presented a dance for me.
And then, after all that rousing activity, a girl shyly presented herself, asking if I would mind listening to her play the theme from Titanic on her recorder. While its sad notes flew into the spring air, I couldn’t help it, my eyes filled with tears, remembering my own grandfather who’d travelled steerage on another steaming ship. Really, what a lovely way to close out a beautiful visit to a wonder-filled place.