River of Words Poetry Workshop at Lansing STEM Academy

By Kelsey Block and Jenny Crakes

Photos by Kelsey Block

On November 8, the RCAH Center for Poetry was proud to sponsor a poetry workshop led by intern Jenny Crakes at Lansing’s STEM Academy.  Approximately ten students in grades 6-8 worked with Jenny, Kelsey, MSU Writing Center outreach coordinator Ashley Gulker, and mentor and volunteer Mrs. Karen Duquette, to create poems themed on environmental issues for the River of Words poetry and art competition.

Ashley and Jenny
Ashley Gulker (left) and Jenny Crakes

Since the students were writing personification poems, we started out with a short writing activity on getting into character as the voice they were speaking from. Some subjects the students had chosen included winter, water, deer, Michigan wolves, and even a PS3. We considered questions such as what their character wants or hopes for, what it fears, its favorite sight, sound, and taste, what its voice sounds like and to whom it is speaking.

Next, we discussed how to create a supportive workshop community that helps a writer make their piece even better. Several students who had completed drafts of their poems read them aloud to the group, and we commented on them together, discussing strengths we especially connected with, and things they could incorporate or expand on.

Finally, we broke into three small workshop groups, each led by an adult, so all students could share their writing in process and get one-on-one feedback, encouragement and suggestions. The authors were enthusiastic and came up with many new ideas, including wonderful images.

Ashley with Ayanna, Daniah, and Valerie

Overall, the students said they enjoyed the workshop.

Katia Dodd, an 8th grader at STEM, said she appreciated sharing her work with others.

“It made you think,” she said. “I could add more to my poem to make it better.”

Valerie Zamora, 6th grader, said that she thought her classmates’ poems were “pretty good.”

“They gave me a great idea for what I’m going to do with mine,” she said.

We also discussed ways for the students to become further involved at MSU. Ashley brought information about open mic nights at MSU where they could come and read their work. Also, following the workshop, Mrs. Duquette brought two students to visit the RCAH for a reading by North Carolina poet Barbara Presnell from her book Piece Work.


Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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