Tuesday, December 8, 2015

April Workshop for Teachers at the University of Maine at Augusta

As that xenophobe Donald Trump proselytizes his McCarthyistic "solutions" to terrorism, as Jerry Falwell, Jr., recommends that college students come to class armed, as a Nevada politician posts a family Christmas photo featuring people who are cuddling both babies and guns, as hate crimes rise, as innocents are murdered, I have been asked to come up with ideas for an April poetry workshop for high school teachers, a session that will be one element of this year's Plunkett Poetry Festival at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Mulling the various possibilities, I found myself recollecting a workshop I designed about 18 months ago for a group of clients at a domestic-violence shelter. At that time, I focused on constructing a class that would intellectually engage the participants without terrifying them, that would open a space for them to take control of their present-tense situation, that would allow them to write or not write about their personal struggles . . . that would give them a choice by leading them to see that all writers have such choices.

In our present climate, I think every one of us needs this reminder and this encouragement. So I submitted the following proposal to the festival facilitator. 
Magic Words: Writing for Hope, Writing for Change
How can classroom teachers use poetry to teach language-arts skills while also facilitating students' creative civil engagement with the world and their own inner lives?

In this workshop, we'll read and discuss poems from various time periods and cultures, focusing on the power of words, expectations of beauty, definitions of happiness, possibilities for change, and other related topics. Then we'll consider linked writing prompts that teachers can use with their students and try out some of those prompts in our own first drafts.
If you're a Maine teacher interested in attending this free workshop, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the powers-that-be. The date is April 8, 2-5 p.m., at UMA.

If you're interested in a personalized version of this workshop for your students, faculty, writing group, or other organization, let me know that too. Let's keep singing.


Carlene said...

O Dawn...that sounds ideal for our spring experience that Barbara and I are working on...I know I'd mentioned Whitman (and indeed, his voice might be among those you include), but this looks so much more what I want for my students and myself at this time.

Yes, please. Yes yes yes.

Maureen said...

I think this is so important, this kind of workshop.

A possible book to consider using or suggesting: Peggy Rosenthal's "Praying through Poetry: Hope for Violent Times". Among the poets included: Adam Zagajewski, Lucille Clifton, Scott Cairns, Jane Hirshfield, Mahmoud Darwish, Denise Levertov. (I wrote a review of it for my blog.) Wislawa Szymborska's another I think might be used.

Dawn Potter said...

We can definitely work Whitman into this theme, and I'd also like to bring in some Middle Eastern voices. It's necessary, I think.

Carlene said...

Yes!! Naomi Shihab Nye is a real win with hs kids...I make a point to work with many of her poems. And I'd love to discover some new poets, too!

Dawn Potter said...

Maureen and Carlene: those are all great ideas. I'm also thinking about Mahmoud Darwish.