Spring 2023: Writing Innovation Symposium Plenary Workshop (Trauma Informed Teaching and Learning)

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February 2023:  For Marquette University’s 2023 Writing Innovation Symposium and its theme of “Writing as….” Melissa Kaplan and I were invited to be plenary workshop presenters. Our workshop titled “Exploring Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning through the Lansing Community College Community-Generated Poetry Project” used materials created in collaboration with Dr. Jenn Fishmann and gathered from students and educators across the country throughout Fall 2022. The project’s general theme was Trauma Informed Teaching and Learning in order to connect to the plenary talk focused on Trauma Informed Pedagogy given my Dr. Melssa Tayles.

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After honoring and sifting through anonymous student responses to various prompts (see the specific prompt below each poem) 25 poets created the following 5 poems: “What have they taught us?”, “Completely Packed”, Snakes and Foxes in the Library of Alexandria”, Too much intentional listening”


“What have they taught us?”

A sea of blank screens

A teacher wearing a cape

A professor with a mask

Smiling at a computer

Outside the monitor’s edges

PJ pants underneath.


One line pep talks

“Zoom will not defeat us.”

The years they were alive

A spiral for many

A near impossible experience.


Educating through it all

We learned new things

We’re grateful

To the people who couldn’t stop working

Hands reaching through

Backs hunched

Holding one of those ancient webcams.


Unprecedented times

For those who struggled

In spite of it all

They still taught.


Or something like that.


Poets: Maxwell Gray, Lilly Campbell, Jenna Green, Margaret Perrow, Derek Handley, Darci Thoune


Completely Packed 

The place of relaxing,

Peaceful enlightenment.



A stressful mind,

The comfort of a repeated story;

The quiet zone.


I would name it The Alchemist’s Bedroom.

Figuring it out

by trying.

The simple liquid compounds

are going to blow up.


Me typing

on my bed,

Music rising,

Return to zero.


Poets: Sara Heaser, Wendy Fall, Jennifer Kontny, Blessing Uwisike, Aleisha Balestri


Snakes and Foxes in The Library of Alexandria

A warm canyon of constant, slow wonder.

The fox rushes, falls up Mt Everest, eager and free.

Finds a bird constructing a library,

beside a screaming exhilarating snake hall,

Some snakes boxed in grinding,

Investing in this chaotic hell.

But, in a museum of devotion,

Calls “Oh, sweet and sour solemnity!”

Aggravated, the snakes respond “ Am I an exhausted

Obedient guinea pig?”

“Don’t be a trapped sloth running an obstacle course.

Though it is an occasionally dreadful monkey marathon, anticipating makes a better forest.”


Snakes and foxes in the library of Alexandria.


Poets: Grant Gosizk, Ryan Vojtisek, Nora Boxer, Nancy Nguyen, Rachel La Due


Too much intentional listening

we are a parliament of

owls on ancient twisted trees

keenly watching

to affirm a forest

with curiosity/ and awe


Individual, collaborative,

dangerous creative


harvesting hope is spoon-catching hazy



affirming forest empathy,

Heart dancing furious, tail switching

energized, hopeful

guardians, fluctuating and



Poets: Sass Denny, Kaia Simon, Jenn Fishman, Mitch R. Murray


“Remote Generation”

To those who tried, those who failed, and those who succeeded.

Behind glass.

Computer with a mask

Teachers will always have our backs

COVID viruses sticking all over them like burrs.

A ball and chain but instead of a ball it’s a laptop.

A bit of glow on their face from a computer screen.

Will you be the ones to cure us?

Light that shows the way.

The crying comes to an end–she survived.

Hands reaching.

Let the fire out.


Poets: Ryan, Claire, Cisco, Melissa T., Kerry


Fall 2022: Imagining America poem “Migrating Scars”


Migrating Scars


My scars tell a story of forever arriving

They are the lessons learned, they remind me where I am going

…how I move matters.

My bones see differently now

Before me, drunk mother climbing mango trees; what could’ve been an avoidable encounter.




My scars tell the story of resiliency, they remind me where I come from, the inheritance of immigrant labor

My scars tell stories of metal and bricks, shredding, shedding, erasing, transforming, they are laughable, they are brave.

Truth tears, share it, see it, feel it, know it

They remember what gets forgotten, of family and friends…

My father’s tomorrows filled with promise, they are bright…they are textured


A deep reality, claiming, I too can eat mangoes

My scars tell the story of wrinkled cigars, they are deep

Trans enough


My scars tell stories of youth and risk, seemingly preventable, bottled up in bottles of Brugal & Mamajuana with something that was too hot

too edgy, my scars are a sign of haste and hurrying, sign of permanence that came out of a moment where blood and breath and fascia and bone…

My scars tell the stories of brokenness that rushing resulted in.




Into experiences and endeavors I was comfortable acting in ways I thought were harmless.

My chest breathes differently now; tired, weary, promise, and loss

moments when I experienced


They are reminders of resilience

They remind me where I have been.


Poets: Sharieka Botex, Jose Cotto, Katinka Hooyer, EG Gionfriddo, Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez