Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tell the World: Teen Poems from WritersCorp

By the students of WritersCorps
Foreward by Sherman Alexie
Reviewed by Andi

WritersCorps was founded in 1944 in three urban centers: San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and the Bronx, NY. To date, WritersCorps has worked with over 40,000 at-risk youth to help improve their writing and provide an outlet for creative expression. Tell the World is the second poetry collection published as a result of the WritersCorps efforts. The first is titled, Paint Me Like I Am.

Tell the World is split into thematic sections titled: Tell the World Who We Are, Tell the World Where We're From, Tell the World What We Love, Tell the World What We Think, Tell the World How It Feels, and Tell the World Why We Hope. Each chapter starts with a meaty prompt, and the poems are the result. I especially enjoyed the poems in the "Tell the World Where We're From" section. The prompt read:

Where is your home? Is it the village you come from, or the city streets you walk every day? Is home where you smell your mother's chicken paprikash stewing on the stove, or where you hear your grandfather's laugh? Is home the feel of your favorite blanket, or the sight of your best friend smiling at you? Write a poem filled with the sensations --sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell--that mean home to you.
Students of all ages--from 12 to 19--provided their thoughts and dreams for this book, and the results are amazing. I was especially interested in the range of poems included in this volume. Some are very serious, full of high flown language and obscure images, while others are securely tethered to the everyday, employing slang and a tangible sense of fun. Whether the poems were serious or silly, I found them all equally charming. I'm consistently impressed and surprised by the students in my own classroom--their depth, thoughtful observations, and drive--and the students in Tell the World are no different. Universally, students have much to teach. The students included in Tell the World are diverse, spirited, and fantastic writers.

"Where We Live"
--Liana Castro, 17, Washington, D.C.

where we live there are people with
loose lips that speak black words
found on street corners and gutters
their pale eyes stare directly at the
clasped hands that belong to you and me
the whispering begins before we've gotten
the chance to leave as their words
float before us in our faces causing
our skin to sweat.
let's run away from pairs
of pale eyes that disapprove
the sweet sensation
that flows from your fingertips
to mine, the love that embraces
the faults that we carry.
let's leave behind the heated
words that burn our skin
let's go to where our age is indifferent
to where judgment happens only
in the afterlife

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