Another Tremendous Summer with the Wick Juniors
For the last few years, participation in Wick Juniors has been something of a tradition in my house. Everyone knows not to make commitments on Wednesdays in June and July and August, to avoid conflict with The Poetry. For my daughter, it is a chance to share ideas that have rattled around in her head since the end of school, and to have the opportunity to channel all of that intellectual energy into whatever prompt is shared that day. For myself, it is a way to recharge my poetic voice by indulging in the act of listening, by ignoring the urge to produce “complete” poems and spend a few hours talking with kids about what language can do on paper and in our lives. Wick Juniors Writing Club is the highlight of my summer week.
This year was a little different for Wick Juniors, thanks to a bit of restructuring by Nicole Robinson, outreach manager at the Wick Poetry Center. Even before the school year ended, the Wick Poetry Center was inundated with requests for information about the summer writing club, thanks in large part to the promotion done by Robinson and her students in the Teaching Poetry in the Schools course, which is taught in the spring and culminates with a yearly performance of Giving Voice. For the first time, two graduate students were brought on as coordinators for various age groups: Casey Nichols, a former intern and current MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University, and me, another former intern and current MFA candidate at Kent State University. Casey, Nicole, and I worked together at the beginning of the summer to create a plan for the lessons and field trips that would take place weekly. In my opinion, it was wildly successful, and I think it would be fantastic opportunity for other MFA students in Northeast Ohio.
None of the work and planning that took place beforehand could have been executed without the amazing undergraduate volunteers who devoted so much of their summer to assisting with Wick Juniors. Thank you to Robin Scheuerman, Rita Steckler, Dan Dorman, Ashton Kamburoff, Britni Williams, Angel Mack, Alex Kersting, and Lucy Merriman. I’d also like to thank my fellow Wick Junior parents. Many of the students in Wick Juniors this year have been a part of the program since the beginning, and that is due to their own interest in poetry, but it is made possible by the support of parents who value the arts and devote time to supporting creativity in their children.
Mere weeks before the start of school, the young poets began a mad scramble to finalize poems in anticipation for the final Wick Juniors event, an evening reading when the parents and community get to hear the poems generated over the course of the summer. As a Wick Junior parent and a lesson coordinator, my excitement was two-fold. I was eager to hear what poems my daughter had written with Nicole and the student volunteers, and I was anxious to hear the newest versions of the poems my own students had written. This year, due to the large number of young poets participating in the club, the reading took place on the third floor of the Kent State Student Center. I am pleased to say that the children and teens read to a packed room, and they did a phenomenal job.
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I can admit that I was very emotional at the reading. As a poet, I often encounter criticism about the purpose of writing poetry. The young poets of Wick Juniors remind me that I write to find my own voice, and that I teach poetry to help them find their voices… and often, when I am open and listening, the students teach me in return. I cherish the time spent with the Wick Teens this summer, discussing favorite poems and writing together. I am so proud of my students, and humbled to have the opportunity to work with them and to see them grow as writers.