Posts Tagged ‘Poetry Writing Support Group for Teens’

Two of my favorite “quotes”

There is no poetry for the practical man. There is poetry only for the mankind of the man who spends a certain amount of his life turning the mechanical wheel. But let him spend too much of his life at the mechanics of practicality and either he must become something less than a man, or his very mechanical efficiency will become impaired by the frustrations stored up in his irrational human personality.
An ulcer, gentlemen, is an unkissed imagination taking its revenge for having been jilted. It is an unwritten poem, a neglected music, an unpainted water color, an undanced dance. It is a declaration from the mankind of the man that a clear spring of joy has not been tapped, and that it must break through, muddily, on its own.
– John Ciardi

Poems are not written to sing of the moon and flowers; they must speak of our hearts in response to the moon and flowers. We must never forget that in our hearts are the seeds of our poems. If we merely speak of the moon and flowers, poems become simply poetical forms, whatever the human heart may be. If these things become a part of ourselves, then we may admire them in verse.
– Okuman Kotomichi
   19th century



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Learning Outside the Classroom

At our Northern California Writers’ Club meeting yesterday, a woman thanked me for getting her started on her book. “You told me to stop taking writing courses and to just write, so I am,” she said. That got me to thinking about some of my best teachers. They were not from classrooms.

I taught in Jackson, Michigan during my fourth year of teaching. I lived with my pen pal Kay and her family for a year. During the summer, I helped Kay can and freeze vegetables and fruits. We filled the basement shelves with jars of tomatoes, beans, corn, rhubarb, peaches and pickles I watched them disappear throughout the year. I took that back to Hawaii with me and canned fresh bamboo shoots from my mother’s bamboo grove, and ohelo berry jam from berries picked from the National Volcano Park.  Today I proudly line the basement shelves with canned pickles and jams and tomatoes from our garden here in Sacramento and I feel like the original pioneer woman. I wish I could make my own bacon by hanging strips of wild boar where the wolves can’t get them.

Growing up country with a pair of chopsticks as flatware, I learned all the social graces of dining right when I worked as a live-in maid during my college years. That was the best education I had  without attending finishing school. Today, I know where the soup spoon goes…

A first generation 86 year old  Japanese immigrant gave me  the lst thought of a person’s right to his or her body.
Uyeki-san taught me how to play the Japanese board game “Go.” He was known to be the best Go player in the village but I devised a way to always beat him. He’d say “Goddam, she beat me again.”  I never gave him my secret. Nice girl disappears during any competitive game.  During one of these games, he told me of his knee surgery and how he refused painkillers. “Me body, Me boss,” he told the nurses and simply refused to open his mouth.

I wonder who’s going to be my teacher tomorrow.

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Teens Writing Support Group: March 13, 2010

Sophia and I sat across each other. She was the only one in attendance today.
We both wrote, synchronized, a flute and a baton. She was the baton. We paused whenever she put her baton down.

Silence Please

The staccato rumbling of the AC,
A door opens, then closes.
The sound of her pen against paper.
The flush of a toilet.
Shhh…hush, we’re in the library.
No voices please.

Pen against paper
Shouts over the AC.
In the silence, she lays down
Her baton.
She has a poem for her grandpa.

“You are a caged bird,” she writes,
“Pleading for a way out
Where escape is not possible.”

“ I have another one,”
She says and returns,
Pen to paper.
A door closes, the AC rumbles.
Shhh…No voices please.

Sophia’s 2nd poem drew a Wow from her when I explained how she had written a two 4-lined stanza poem without consciously being aware of her form. She wrote 4 lines at the bottom of a page, flipped the page over and continued writing on the next. Another Wow when I said,” You have a natural sense of writing poetry.”

Sophia, age 12, wrote the following poems until it was time to put both flute and baton away.

The Cage Bird

You are a cage bird,
Pleading for a way out
Where escape
Is not possible.


The Never Ending Time Bomb

You’re living in a time bomb,
Filled with emotion.
One moment you go off.
You’re filled with anger.

The next moment you forget
And you’re filled with joy.
You’re stuck in the time bomb
That is everlasting.


Pouring My Emotion

My pen scratches against paper,
Writing poems about
Caged bird and time bombs.
Pouring my emotion on this sheet,
Thinking about my grandpa
While doing so,
Remembering fond memories
Realizing that I am
A big part of his life.
I will share the rest
Of his lifetime with him.
I will create more memories
And will continue pouring
Them out in this notebook.


Becoming a Poet

I am in the library
This breezy Spring day,
Capturing memories of my grandpa.
Picking the one blade of grass
And writing about it.
Reminding me not to pick
The forest.
Remembering to use
The fewest words possibly,
Becoming a better poet.

If He Were Here

If he were here now,
He would be smiling.
“Keep writing,” he would tell me.
“Go for the one blade of grass.”
If he were here now,
He would be proud of me.

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Check my Events calendar for the following:

Writing Support Group for Teens (with family members diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses)

Next  sessions:

April  10, 2010

May 1, 2010

2 – 3:30

Arden-Dimick Library/Conference room

No cost: bring pen and paper

Come talk story, write if you wish, or just listen.

The following poem was written by Sophia Stults, age 12

Pouring My Emotion

My pen scratches against paper,

Writing poems about

Caged bird and time bombs.

Pouring my emotion on this sheet,

Thinking about my grandpa

While doing so,

Remembering fond memories

Realizing that I am

A big part of his life.

I will share the rest

Of his lifetime with him.

I will create more memories

And will continue pouring

Them out in this notebook.

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Poetry Writing Support Group for Teens

I met someone just like me  at my first Poetry Support Group for Teens. She was 12 years old. I started this group for teens whose grandparents have Alzheimer’s or other dementia related illnesses. She wrote three poems about her grandfather. I joined her and wrote a few poems. I could sense the poet in her and read my children’s book “Wordsworth the Poet.” By her reactions, I knew she understood and related to the character Wordsworth. I later signed the  book,  “You are Wordsworth”,  and gave it to her. I wanted to hold her and protect her from her deep sense of feelings and awareness but knew she wouldn’t need my protection. Here are the poems I wrote. Sophia gave me permission to use her name and will share her poems later.

Poem #1


When I was her age,
Where did my pen take me?
To far away places,
Writing to pen pals
In Michigan, Germany
And even France.
It was my escape from
The tiny little village of my birth.

And here is Sophia,
This rainy Saturday afternoon,
Preserving memories
Of her beloved grandpa.

Shouldn’t she, too, be
Dreaming dreams
Of any 12 year old?
Frivolous, funny,
Texting messages
In a generation
Unfamiliar to me?

But this thief Alzheimer’s
Who came uninvited
Into her grandpa’s life,
Has given her another pen.
And she has grasped it,
Bravely, with all her heart.
She sits here, writing, capturing,
Preserving the Grandpa
She loves.


Poem # 2

Sophia’s Blades of Grass

“Go for that one blade of grass.”
I said. “Not the whole yard,
Just that one blade of grass.”

She took that one blade of grass
And wrote of her visit with her Grandpa.
Images of a doll held in his arms,
Her grandpa’s mind,
A library of memories,
Flow from her pen.

But there are so many more
Blades of grass.
And she’s taking another one,
And another one.

Alzheimer’s has become
A whole ball field and more.
Unlike a weed whacker.
She’ll take it one blade at a time,
Weakening that thief,
In her Grandpa’s name.


Poem #3

Sophia the Poet

Wordsworth, I found you a friend.
Her pen is as powerful as yours.
Her senses, like a thousand and one antennae,
Will blow your mind away.
She’ll be that friend
Who’ll sit next to you
Without saying a single word.
And she will know that you know,
What’s she’s saying in her silence.

For this is how poets are.
Wordsworth the Poet,
Meet  Sophia  the Poet.


My support group for teens is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association. Please call

916-930-9080 for more information.

My books “Wordsworth the Poet” and “Wordsworth Dances the Waltz”  ( Wordsworth’s grandma has dementia) , are available through major bookshops and the author.

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