By Michelle Sipes, Arts Learning Specialist –
For the Poetry Out Loud (POL) season this year, the POL State Finals Competition and Showcase shifted to a fully virtual format in response to COVID-19, including all the accompanying educational workshops and activities. While nothing can replace an in-person experience, virtual platforms have provided invaluable opportunities to safely reach and connect with schools, students, and teachers that otherwise would not have been possible. This year, the Tennessee Arts Commission has partnered with The Porch (https://www.porchtn.org/) to offer unique educational workshops to teachers and students across the state. Created in collaboration between The Porch and classroom teachers, this year’s POL workshops bring fully customized experiences to a diverse group of students.
Additionally, to celebrate National Poetry Month coming up in April, the TN Arts Commission is teaming up with The Porch to host a 3-part poetry series for teens called Manifesting Your Poetic Voice. Students will get to work with National Poetry Series finalist and award-winning author Meg Wade. They’ll explore different ways to capture their unique voices on the page. Participation is FREE and fully open to all high school students. Limited spots are available and are first-come, first-served. Workshop series begins on Saturday, April 10–details and a link to reserve a spot can be found here: https://www.porchtn.org/class/manifesting-your-poetic-voice
Here are a few highlights from The Porch’s in-school workshops with some of this year’s participating POL teachers and students, including:
At Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville, TN, the Porch’s Youth Programs Director, Joe Kane, virtually worked with Sarah Bollschweiler’s students on their “Vignette Projects” by workshopping their writing, sharing feedback, and connecting in with the power of image and perspective. Students were coached on how to give and receive feedback to and from their peers–a critical skill necessary for their futures–and were given space and time to read aloud their in-process pieces.
And over at Harding Academy of Memphis, in Memphis, TN, students in Janelle Phipps’ class worked with The Porch’s teaching artist AM Ringwalt focusing on Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo” as well as a George Oppen’s poem “Myself I Sing” in response to Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. After the workshop, Phipps shared, “My students loved using the mentor poems to write about themselves, and they were proud of what they had created. Hurray for students who see the power and fun of writing poetry!“ And one of her students responded to the workshop saying, “AM Ringwalt really opened my eyes to the beauty of literature; my poem really showed me how greatly I’m influenced by people and environment.”
Thanks to Poetry Out Loud, these workshops truly foster and bring to life the power of poetry to TN students, teachers, and community members year after year. POL is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and has reached over 4 million students, 65,000 teachers, and 16,000 schools from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
Watch the 2021 POL Virtual Showcase and Awards Ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dq-OS0cWAE&t=117s