Sometimes the hands rise slowly. Sometimes they shoot up quickly.
Other times, hands rise up cautiously as the eyes dart around the room. I love this moment for its honesty, its quiet potential, and the way that question maps out the terrain I have to travel to at the least show each and every school in Howard County that poetry is present, possible and matters. As writer-in-residence for HoCoPoLitSo, I travel to the county high schools to read and talk poetry.
During the reading, I share stories behind the inspiration and origin of some of the poems and then I ask the students if they have any questions about certain poems. Many even request me to read certain poems and then give their own interpretations on them. We talk about other things as well. Ipod playlists. If Twitter is an appropriate space for poetry. Role-playing games. Favorite books. Dating. Haiku. Race. Gender. The list goes on.
If I have any sort of a complaint, I wish that perhaps my visits could extend past the usual fifty-minute class time. Usually the bell rings and the students make their way to lunch or to another class and I find myself a little melancholy that the connection we’ve built in just a short time is broken. But so much has happened within those small bubbles of time. I’ve witnessed brave students share their own poems when I’ve asked if there are any other poets in the room.
I’ve watched them deliver heartbreakingly honest and earnest poems, shaking paper and all, with the kind of sophistication and insight I truly wished I possessed at their age. I’ve stayed after my allotted time with passionate teachers and their poetry-hungry students who fire questions like pistons at me about form, meter, and content.
I enjoy this job most of all because I realize that Howard County is not as mysterious as I thought, because poetry dwells there, and anywhere poetry lives is home.
Derrick Weston Brown
To support HoCoPoLitSo’s Writer-In-Residence program in Howard County high schools, consider making a donation.