May 2018 Professional Development Day: Poetry Project Session

Session attendees playing with words

Who: Attendees = Dan Holt, Marcy Bauman, Sarah Steinhour, Meg Elias, and Matt VanCleave; Rob McLoone, Tim Deines, Jeff Janowick, and Regina Gong; Kali Majumdar, Anne Heutche, Ami Ewald, and Rosalie Petrouske

What:

From the 5/15/18 Professional Development Day proposal description:

Inspired by a session at the 2017 Imagining America Conference, our inaugural LCC Community-generated Poetry project began with the central question: “Using what you’ve learned at LCC, how will you engage with the larger community?” From this, the project evolved into a cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental, student-centered event that, so far, includes:

      • Four poems written by ENGL 201, Introduction to Poetry students using raw material produced in multiple courses (ENGL, HIST, PHIL, DMAC and THEA) and shared at StarScapes. The poems were written after a workshop on form/approach with current Lansing Poet Laureate and retired LCC professor Dennis Hinrichsen.

      • Interpretation of these poems by a student from the Sign Language Interpreter Program during the StarScapes readings

      • Performances at StarScapes of two of the four poems by students in THEA 143 Stage Voice for the Actor

      • Planned publication of these and future Community-Generated Poetry Project poems and other output using a magazine-like WordPress site on LCC’s Open Learning Lab OpenLCC sites

      • Video produced by DMAC 244 Media/Cinema Producer students covering various aspects of the project.

      • During this session we’ll present the specifics of the project, give attendees a chance to do some interactive work with the raw material we gathered, and share the student-generated poems from this year, as well as our ideas for future iterations of the project. In addition, with the idea that this project is infinitely adaptable, we hope to get input from attendees regarding: Where else might we go with this from here?


How:  My session/presentation notes:

Intro/context (10 minutes or less?):

    • Imagining America Conference Oct 2017 (What is Imaging America, LCC is a member institution and Melissa/Barb are campus liaisons, other IA LCC projects? Plans for future projects. Value of interdisciplinary projects/learning). IA Vision Statement: Publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars and community activists working toward the democratic transformation of higher ed and civic life.
    • Short description of the session Barb attended called “community generated poetry” (prompts Andrew Sullivan wrote around “Imagining America”, 5 volunteers to write from the session, met Sunday a.m., were each given a stack of prompts/responses, wrote a couple of stanzas, the final poem read at the closing ceremony of the conference – share my two stanzas?)
    • Tried a small version with my ENGL 201 class Fall 2017 – I wrote two poems from student responses to “America is/AMERICA acrostic” and “Poetry is/POETRY acrostic”. Students loved it but I wanted it all to come from them – raw material and the poem(s)

This semester’s project (10 minutes or less?):

    • Our inaugural LCC Community-generated Poetry project began with the central question: “Using what you’ve learned at LCC, how will you engage with the larger community?” From this, the project evolved into a cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental, student-centered project that, so far, includes:
        • Four poems written by ENGL 201, Introduction to Poetry students using raw material produced in multiple courses (ENGL, HIST, PHIL, DMAC and THEA) from prompts connected to our central question (around the concepts of: community, college, LCC and Lansing) written by professors of those courses: Barb Clauer, Jeff Janowick, Matt VanCleeve, Bonnie Sumbler, Paige Tufford and Melissa Kaplan. The ENGL 201 students read their poems at StarScapes.
        • The poems were written after a workshop on form/approach with current Lansing Poet Laureate and retired LCC professor Dennis Hinrichsen.
        • Interpretation of these poems by a student from the Sign Language Interpreter Program during the StarScapes readings (which prompted one of my ideas for future poetry projects)
        • Performances at StarScapes of two of the four poems by students in Paige Tufford’s THEA 143 Stage Voice for the Actor
        • Planned publication of these and future Community-Generated Poetry Project poems and other output using a magazine-like WordPress site on LCC’s Open Learning Lab OpenLCC sites
        • Video produced by Bonnie Sumbler’s DMAC 244 Media/Cinema Producer students covering various aspects of the project.
    • Feedback from students involved – share some of the ENGL 201 student feedback (bring hardcopy)
    • Some of our reflections? This was a major learning experience – lots to keep and things to change as well – already have a list of things I would do differently based on student feedback. I was nervous about some of the poems’ content and style but decided to just trust the students and the process we tried – i.e. handing over so much to them. This was a real learning experience for me on that front. What we did right = their words, their poems and their voice.

Let’s play! And see outcomes (25 min)

    • Give groups of 4-5 people small stacks of the raw material and some highlighters
    • Directions (enlarge and print out for doc cam):
      • Highlight interesting language/imagery, something that moves you or just that you notice
      • Stich those together to make a couple of lines of poetry
      • Connect those with other lines in your group to make a quick/rough poem from the material
      • Write it on the big sticky pad
      • Share remember these are “quickly-created community-generated poems” J
    • Show/read the student-generated poems from this year (on easels) with the caveat that they really need to be read by students.
    • Reflections? I’m learning to just DO things like this that are important to us. I wanted to try it on one of my classes and then on a bigger scale. I have amazing colleagues who were game and we worked together and ta-da something new exists that both faculty and students found valuable. Joy.

Future plans/ideas (5 min)

Some of our rough ideas:

    • Something with accessibility – this type of project encourages empathy; I think it might be helpful to hear from students with various needs what the concept of accessibility means to them. Also thinking about what it would be like for hearing students to see a poem only in ASL with no translation/captions.
    • Ongoing connections to OneBook using themes inspired from the books each year – coming up The Hate You Give
    • Service Learning possibility? Have students go into area schools and lead similar projects? (ex: college students talking to high school students about each of the groups’ concepts of the value of education?)
    • Any suggestions/ideas from participants?

Session Output:

Participants formed three groups and, using small piles of unmarked (i.e. not the ones the students had highlighted/marked up for their poems) questionnaire responses from the Spring 2018 CGPP, wrote three new poems.  It’s fascinating to me to compare the student-written poems to the faculty/staff-written poems.

Observations:

    • Similar phrases were collaged into both sets of poems
    • Similar tone in both sets but a certain “tightness” in phrasing and economy of language from the faculty poems
    • Slightly less focus on parking in the faculty poems 🙂

The Poems:

LCC is like a busy street that
   never sleeps, a home I don’t
   want to live in, constantly
   planning a wedding.
A beehive, all sorts, buzzing & humming.
A giant fishbowl, it’s a cozy little space.
Came 40 minutes early, still late to
   class, couldn’t find a parking spot…
   afraid to use the Gannon bathroom.
Staying up all night drinking coffee
So much potential, locked in conformity.
Oh say can you tell how my future will be?
   I hope I don’t regret this.

by Dan Holt, Marcy Bauman, Sarah Steinhour, 
Meg Elias, and Matt VanCleave
Anyone can go to college.
A bittersweet symphony,
A young person’s dedicated Hell,
A nightmare with a happy ending,
“She tried.”
Started from the bottom, now we here,
A kid at the starzone.
Cheaper than most places,
Meijer life statuses,
A ponzi scheme,
Of who they think I am,
I met my boyfriend outside of poetry,
I can’t get off.
It’s our shithole.
Maybe that’s ok.

by Rob McLoone, Tim Deines, Jeff Janowick, 
and Regina Gong
LCC stood proud, concrete exterior hard as
a shell, but inside she held a soft
happy secret
Your average student got a 100%
on a test that I never took & never
raised my hand
My future is bright and luminous
hope before life goes to shit
My life be like
a box of chocolate
money without inflation
remarkably, unremarkable
Get everyone to love one another
By watching them like zoo animals.

by Kali Majumdar, Anne Heutche, Ami Ewald, 
and Rosalie Petrouske

An epiphany I had and shared with attendees during the session: This project is amazing for hearing from populations in a way we haven’t or that they don’t get asked.  It’s important for the fact that the poems come from and are written by those within the particular population. Their words; their voices.

I enjoyed sharing the bumpy process for the first LCC Community Generated Poetry Project (Spring 2018 (Inaugural!) LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project) and that the main thing I learned was what is now Poetry Project Principle (link to page): Trust the students.

 

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