Poetry Friday Guest Blog: From the Eyes of a Student Day Coordinator

To get a teacher’s perspective, we get to hear from Judy Michaels, who has brought students on Student Day from Princeton Day School since 1998.

Judy Rowe Michaels, Princeton Day School
High School Student Day Coordinator

Jamier approaches NJPAC on the tips of his toes. Anticipation, maybe, but he’s found this the least painful way to walk, after a recent football injury and a week of wheelchair and crutches. He’s one of our best slam poets but told me, “I need to stop writing about love and break-ups. I’m stuck in the same old images.” For Jamier, the high point of Festival turns out to be Kwame Dawes—his reading and craft lecture. Back at school the next day, he tells us, “Kwame says, ‘You need to pay attention to a lot of other poets to find your own originality.’ He’s right, man. That’s what I need to do.”

In twelve Dodge Festivals, our school’s never had more students of color sign up. The Newark venue? The range of African American and Latino poets and musicians? The Dodge staff’s Friday blogs? All these factors helped us not just announce the event but recruit. We even called parents. “We’ll arrange for a wheel chair, but he needs to go!” “I know you’re catching a plane for college visiting, but she could go to Festival for three hours first. It’s near the airport. She wants to hear Sharon Olds.” Students went to the blogs and reported back on their favorites, sent us to websites, read poems aloud to each other.

Our fifteen students traveled happily in their three groups all Friday but met to picnic on the grass, share poets they heard, and buy books, posters, CD’s. They raved about the teenage jazz musicians who opened the morning. They admired the crowd, the styles, the peaceful energy. “You can tell everybody’s here because they want to be. Because they want to hear poems,” said one. Back home next day, the five from my poetry class reported their findings. Dan posted favorite quotes: from Kathleen Graber: “Write against the grain—different reactions for the same situation: the gray area has more texture.” “Begin with an image, not an idea.” From Billy Collins: “Get creative: Things don’t have to be as they seem.”

And, again from Collins, “Poetry is the only way to access the revelation at its end; you don’t know where it will take you.”

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