Collected Poetry Project Poems

Collected Poems from all Poetry Project work: Fall 2017 Imagining America  — to Spring 2021 Projects

Table of contents:

    1. Fall 2017 Barb Clauer’s stanzas from the Imagining America 2017 Community-Generated Poem “Imagining America” (link to full project post)
    2. Fall 2017 Poems Barb Clauer wrote from community-generated responses from Fall 2017 ENGL 201 Introduction to Poetry students (link to full project post)
    3. Spring 2018 Inaugural LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project (link to full project post)
    4. Spring 2018 “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” Black History Month Event (link to full project post)
    5. May 2018 Professional Development Day Poetry Project Session (link to full project post)
    6. Fall 2018 Homelessness Poetry Project in collaboration with Professor Judy Allen’s and her docu-play I Have a Name (link to full project post)
    7. Spring 2019 Black History Month “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” sessions March 19th and March 20th, 2019 (link to full project post)
    8. Spring 2019 LCC One Book (now called Capital Area One Book) Poetry Project with Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give (link to full project post)
    9. Spring 2019 LCC One Book Wrap-Up session (link to full project post)
    10. Fall 2019 Community-Generated Poetry Activity for the September 20th, 2019 Inaugural LCC Student Summit on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (link to full project post)
    11. Spring 2020: The Vote and Your Voice Poetry Project
    12. Fall 2020 Visiting History Scholar Series: Community-Generated Poetry Activity
    13. Fall 2020 Inaugural “Inspiration Exchange” Community-Generated Poetry Activity
    14. 2020-2021 Poetry Project in collaboration with LCC’s “We Shall Overcome: Raising Our Voices Together” Multi-Genre Event
    15. Spring 2021 Malcolm X Symposium: Community-Generated Poetry Activity
    16. Spring 2021 Visiting History Scholar Series: Community-Generated Poetry Activity
    17. Fall 2021 Poetry Project in collaboration with LCC’s “Please Stay: A Call for Suicide and Depression Awareness” Multi-Genre Event
    18. Spring 2022 WIS Session poem “The Beast”
    19. Fall 2022 Imagining America session poem “Migrating Scars”
    20. Spring 2023: Writing Innovation Symposium Plenary Workshop (Trauma Informed Teaching and Learning)


1. Fall 2017 Barb Clauer’s stanzas from the Imagining America 2017 Community-Generated Poem “Imagining America” (Link to the full poem titled “Imagining America”)

America is a dizzy boxer,
A forwarded meme, a vegan carnivore.
But its dream can be a nightmare for the hateful,
Haunting them.  It loves the love that is difficult,
Tries to remember to be a citizen of the entire world,
To do something
About it
With a work of art forged from
Ephemera used in direct action.

America is fractal, a chaotic, confusing gem
With inequalities and injustice in its inner workings,
In access to the fruits of its labor –
A drunk bumblebee stuck on a hibiscus plant
Crying tweets.

But if we could imagine
A new American superhero
What would her superpowers be?
A collage of empathy for others, transcendence,
Umoja (“unity” in Swahili),
A West Coast statue of Unity
Accumulated through adding stones
To others’ sculptures by the American River,
Blessing the survivors of her wrath.


2. Poems Barb Clauer wrote from community-generated responses from Fall 2017 ENGL 201 Introduction to Poetry students

America Is

America is a contradiction.
Arrogance + ignorance
like those who once thought 
the sun revolved around the earth.
A meddling klutz who means well,
but falls in the pool 
just dipping its toes in.
A moody teenager pushing 
away the adults, 
but still asking for dinner.
A pep squad: shouting, shouting, shouting
tossing each other in the air, 
smiling through a pulled muscle.

America is the gusting wind 
fraying its own flag.
A dog snapping and barking to be loved.
The shock of a cold lake full of bright fish
after a hot tub of rippling anger.
Apathy catcalls empathy.

An illness chokes America,
rectangular like money.
Always open to the prospect 
of development,
merchandise everlasting
absolved of accountability.

America is a mirage, 
ephemeral as a cloud floating away
blocking the sun even as it evaporates.

Poetry Is

Poetry is a park in the walk
playing with words
on a language jungle gym.
Parades of flying and flightless birds
riding a free breeze
purposefully overlooking
excused rules.

Poetry sneaks into your dreams
through the open door
to gaze upon the poet you are there
and steal the opulence of words
screaming from your fingertips.

Poetry allows reconciliation and yielding,
room to pretend and play with cliché.
Years are lost but always there.
Everyone involved neglects reality,
time travel is possible.


3. Spring 2018 Inaugural LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project

¿Shackled in Freedom?
by Brad Chattaway, Jesse Hamilton, and Uriah Lahti

Dead broke and feeling sour
Woke up and didn’t even shower
Ignite the beater and off I wander
Dodging millions of potholes over yonder
Off to LCC I go

A career I can enjoy that supports me
And maybe even some extra change for the family
But how can I get all the way to school
If I can’t park my car…maybe carpool?
Lost at LCC I am.

I get to class and am blown away
At all the homework we have for the day
But not once have I ever raised my hand
I sit there lost and confused about supply and demand
Lost at LCC I am.

One thing we want is BETTER SECURITY
And we believe in ECONOMIC EQUALITY
I never take tests and I still get a hundred
I don’t know why, but that grade will get me off this cheap bed.

Searching for parking, for what seems like days
I am tired,
Anxious about my grades

Throttling the car to my newly earned place
emotions swell
My procrastination piling up homework
already from hell,
leaving me gasping,
trying to do well
Now I bolt for my class
I’ve just missed the bell

But all can be well
If we refuse to fall victims to procrastination
in a forced
yet functional community
we can overcome hate of all
every person
or nation.

I find myself asleep
in a nap between classes
just trying to keep my GPA consistent
But it’s hard to be persistent
when I’m chained in this prison
for which I must pay.

As I complete my assignments
drinking cheap liquor
I reflect
what I pay for is not just solitary confinement
we make good friends
run into old ones
tie up loose ends.

We are learning at discount,
Just like my liquor
we are open minded
even as some of our skulls are thicker.
On others – our positive difference we can amount.

Now as I set down
my unsatisfying cup
I know we are not those who’ve all but given up,
submitting to
“the last chance college.”

Together a family, we walk down the path
of happiness
our condition is math
one problem, many solutions.

Although we are shackled
we’re shackled in freedom,
our failures help us,
as long as we see them.

There’s an obligation to encourage and inspire
Gaining knowledge to spark an idea like a fire
Discovering a love for different cultures
We are free, not frozen like a sculpture
Spending time with the people I love
While shooing away racism like a dove
Here, learning is the goal
to motivate the youth is our role
to be successful you must work hard
have fun in the world like it’s your backyard

Now I’m living on a beach sipping a mojito
Living large on the island of Wakito
Cuz’ I’m dead broke and feeling sour.
Woke up and didn’t even shower
Survived LCC I did.


Brokeback College
by Jaquanna Carter, Kayla Norris, Tricia Wickens, Emilee Wilcox

Brokeback college
It’s like a Ponzi scheme,
eating my money and my time
The most expensive simultaneous ego boost
and ego shatter
I’ll ever participate in
Full of lonely lesser-thans

“Last Chance College”
It’s college on easy mode
that’s why you get good grades
You’re just solving problems
someone already knows the answer to.
Waiting 10 minutes for someone to back out
of their parking spot
they never did
Is it over yet?

Powering through malady
like a bittersweet symphony
Participation, connection, empathy
Stressful but worth it.
I am phenomenal,
I’m not afraid to move forward

Moving forward
there’s hope for everyone.
It’s not where we came from
but where we are going.
We don’t need superhero powers;
What we do is good enough.
We will one day be
greater and stronger.


Last Chance of College
by Grace Carroll, Gracie Smith-Jobski, Ebonee Young

The earth actually could be flat
Fast forward time
Looking both ways before crossing the street, and then getting hit by a plane
Leaving on a jet plane
Long journey with no exact destination
A series of unfortunate events
You can never park anywhere
Steal parking spots
Where people stalk you for your parking spots
Taking the L
Being stuck between child and adulthood
College turns a teenager into an adult
My patience wears thin more quickly than i thought
Came 40 minutes early to school and was still late because I couldn’t get a parking spot
I am very
A pebble, small and boring
A colone of ants
LCC weight on my shoulders, like a weight
Its smart to go to to save money
Rich AF-2Chainz
Be prepared to be tired
Lansing is like a home i don’t want to live in
The place you dred going to
High school on drugs
I prepares for real life
College is like the food chain, someone is always going to be better and smarter than you
Transfer students: the ones who got away
My daughter cancer
I like to procrastinate everyweek
LCC concert, a musically painful moment
Lansing is like big and new I was not born in lansing so it is different being from a small town
If i met one of my LCC professors in 5 years it would be at fun and we would talk about what we doing


As Yet Untitled
by Lorisa Bolinger, Echo Canaday, Ryanne Gumfory, and 
Courtney McLaren

I just go to LCC
a last chance college
the first step
toward the future
where I want to be somebody
but I’m locked in conformity
a cage, an empty room
a blank wall
so much potential

Our community, a pack of wolves,
brings security, a thriving ecosystem the 
true heart of the state
a beehive
all sorts of buzzing and humming,
everyone doing their own thing
constant panic
too many people do the wrong thing.
I’m not living for myself.
Welcome to the club.

The roads are terrible
The earth might actually be flat
I’m on a long journey with no exact destination
on a busy street that never sleeps
filled with pebbles small and boring
the smallest stepping stones
anyone can go to college
I owe it to myself to take control

I am somebody
to love and be loved
community is like a human blood stream, an open-ended family
a giant pot of boiling opinions
that taught me not everyone has the same heart as me 
and so together through bagels, buildings and a whole lot of stairs
we grow and learn and start.


4. Spring 2018 “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” Black History Month Event

Student-created poems inspired using first lines from: 
“Harlem”, “I, Too” and “Let American Be America Again”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it feel rage over being forgotten
     Or does it not give a fuck?
Does it wait for the door to reopen?
Or does it wither?
Does it close its eyes like a dead body?
A dream doesn’t come to a sleeper
     Or does it?
Is it all nothing and no longer holds meaning?
Do you get one chance or two?
Like a butterfly
God’s proof that you get two lives.


I, too sing but not to
I, too, sing. America is a land
of mixed genres, where it
shouldn’t be judged on the person’s
point of view.
I, too, love myself, but unlike
you, I know when I’m wrong
and love myself strong.
We all bleed the same color
but, we are all separated.
I am the broken brother, but
unlike Humpty Dumpty, I can put
myself together.

I, too, sing America for
peace all over. Put down the
guns and pick up the love.
I am successful – technologically advanced.
I am the future, the innovators
of upcoming America.
I, too, sing American; I see
the potential you can be.


Let America be America again.
When people cared more about
each other and less about defense.
When people built bridges instead
of worrying about a fence.
Pretend with your benevolence
yet black can’t equal excellence.
Let America nourish and empower
Let America be America again.
Let me be me once again
no conformity, no difference
because of a “friend”.
Let everyone love everyone
again and all of us be equal
again and everyone be a team
America lost to the sea
in the horizon without
regard to the past or the present.
Let American be America again
Let us all go back to being the melting pot,
where crime wasn’t labeled one race
and kids go outside and play on the slide
coming back home in one piece.


5. Poetry Project:  May 2018 Professional Development Day Poetry Project Session

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


6. Poetry Project: Fall 2018 Homelessness Poetry Project in collaboration with Professor Judy Allen’s and her docu-play I Have a Name

Both poems were authored by the whole Fall 2018 ENGL 201 Introduction to Poetry class: Avery Beyea, Olivia Bush, Nicole Cade, Schuyler Clark, Caite Eddy, Julita Fenneuff, Shelby Frink, Ashley Guston, Danielle Hook, Dayona Jennings, Elliot Lowe, Morris Luckett, Maya Ludtke, Mikey Lutz, John Mertke, Mariah Mitchell, Mitchell O’Brien, Douglas Patterson, Brenden Scott, Claire Taylor, Hayden Torra and Tayler Woog

Poem 1

My mother tells me not to look at them;

they have a name, but only the local charity cares.

I avoid eye contact and try not to stare,

I can’t do enough, I’m not charity, I’m me.

It’s easier to ignore them than to ask them about their story.

If they approach me I say,

I don’t have my wallet on me.

I have limited resources.

I don’t have time.


Lost in the depths

I see no escape from

my unfortunate fate

I have been reduced to

nothing but insulting words





And I’m always where the darkness glows

where good dreams hide,

Nightmares are shown

Home is a disappearing act, one moment it’s

there and then another it fades

The street is the sanctuary for the


Loneliness is like dreamlessness

“living the dream”!

A malnourished, American dream

Dream of a New Beginning

I dream of the day I

will be considered. I

vacate my former dream

the next day and the next

day and the next

Chased by nightmares

of what tomorrow brings.

Existing but, not living

1 day I’ll become a business

making my Dream…

a Reality.

I am not a stranger to the cold

As passersby don’t meet my eye,

They never see my pain

I have a name

I am one of you

I have an identity, a heart

Don’t banish my soul.

“Why should I help a stranger?”

I don’t want your money

You don’t know what I have

They glare, none seem to care

Under the dirt is a person that’s hurt

You don’t know my name

I was left behind.

Another stranger who can’t meet my eye

The constant flow of people around me

never acknowledge I exist

I am different

I am the one they avoid

How could you love a stranger?

Poem 2:

I have a name.

You see me as a stranger but I can be a friend.

Less judgment more effort.

I’m calling to action

those who choose to be willingly blind.

In a perfect world,

we would lift others up,

instead of leaving them down.

Never think of a homeless person

as just another stranger, they have a name.

Give conversations instead of coins.

A stranger to familiar faces

judging by looks instead of seeking the story.

Every stranger has a name, a voice.

Though a stranger I remain,

Hope I will maintain.


There is more to charity than just giving.

Charity is another term for love.

Help another human being;



don’t judge,

it can turn their life around.

In human dignity we find happiness. Now

I’m in your family

I’m in your heart

I’m human again.

It was my past, but it could be me again.

It could be you.


When you have no home of your own

you must learn to find a home within yourself

you must find strength to keep living

and better yourself.

You eat and sleep and breathe just as me,

I just have no home or place to be.

I have a heart, and lungs, and working brain,

even though I have no home, I have a name.

I am more than meets your eyes.

My strength may have dwindled but the fire has only grown.

My body is my temple so I call it my home.

Home is a picture painted differently in every mind.

Home is where the heart is, the people

you are surrounded and loved by.

I am a person with a life.


I exist

I have an idea of stability,

of safety,

of self-discovery.

I have a name.

I have a dream,

a dream to be like you,

a dream of new beginnings.

I have a name:

it’s happiness

it’s peace.

For the time being,

you probably don’t dream of being like me,

how life was before,

how life used to be.

When I have a name,

I become a bird

and dream about everything.

Just like you,

I have a name.


7. Poetry Project:  Spring 2019 Black History Month “Creating Poetry/Creative Resistance” sessions March 19th and March 20th, 2019

Poems from 3.19.19 session

What happens to a dream deferred?
Is it swept like dirt under a rug?
Or does it spread like an invasive bug?
Or is it never really forgotten like a lost loved one?
Is it built like a tank, yet hard to hit?
Or does it shrivel,
like a plant without water?
Does it vanish,
like freedom that has perished?
Does it follow like a shadow,
or wash away on a rainy day?
Does it wash away because of life events?
or do you let your peers deter you away from it?
Or are you free to be as everybody else?
Does it disappear to the back of your mind,
reappearing randomly just to be pushed away again?
Or is it just simply that a dream so long deferred
becomes a dream no longer?

by: Zion Chisolm, Emily Castle, Cy Church, 
Charlese DuMond, Morris Luckett, Quan Tran, 
Kalyn VanWormer, Sydney Green

I, too, sing America
Although I am different.
I sing to millions and billions.
Tell that girl to get her own style
because I am unique.
You may not think –
But I already do
My occupation does not define me.
I laugh, cry, and hurt just as much as they do.
I forge ahead, my path, my own.
We are blessed by our heavenly God.
He has given us a new way to live,
A healing comfort of pain and mind.

by: Christopher Marral, Oscar William Navichoc, 
Tionne Heard, Alaina Dempsey, Retha Moore, 
Jalen Steele, Brand Bekke, Courtney Bryan, 
Skye Keeslar, Grace Thelen

Let America be America again.
Let our voices be heard
Let the judgements stop
Allow us to be 100% ourselves all the time
Let it be a place of joy
And not a place of pain
Back to a time with no discrimination
A place with no stereotypes
Where you can run around freely
No matter the color of your skin
Let America be America Again
Let it be a place where indigenous people
Are once again treated with respect
Let it be the true “melting pot” it claims to be
That gives everybody equality
Let America be America again

When did America officially lose itself?
Who’s not letting America be America?
But what was America?
Looking back in time, why would we want this?
Who does the repetition benefit?
Let American shape itself.

by: Ruby Edsall-Parr, Caleb Harrison, Ethan Mongean, 
Caleb Friddle, Rose Fox-Long, Emily VanElls, 
Serena Boak, Juhyun Lee, Marquis Jeffries, Kelsey Connor

Poem from 3.20.19 

Let America be American again
Let open-mindedness spark opportunity,
Let colonizers be free from strain
Inputting diversity and producing creativity.

(America is still trying to be America to me.)

Dreams have been dreamed
Love expanded from the land
Never kings wear fake crowns
And dares the destruction of someone’s hand

(America is something America will never be.)

“Let America be America again
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed
Let it be that great strong land of love.”

Let America be America again
When walls come down and bridges are embraced,
Where undocumented immigrants are
Connected with family rather than separated

Cold dreams, thoughts and tears
Washed away like dirty water,
The sweetness of my heart
fade into the darkness of my own loneliness

Let America be America Again
Without the violence, the pain, and the suffering.
Let America be awesome.
If I had a choice, I would take the flag and
Burn it, because it has so much bloodshed,
And create something new: a flag that’s clean.
Let America be great again.

by: Gary Cox, James Henson, Daniel Morgan, 
Prisca Mtimavalye, Leticia Naverro


8.  Poetry Project:  Spring 2019 LCC One Book (now called Capital Area One Book) Poetry Project with Angie Thomas’ novel The Hate U Give

Written by LCC students Emmerson Myhre, Lauren Nugent, 
Kurstina Simmons, and Tucker Tatroe, this poem came 
from source material written by other LCC students 
in response to prompts concerning identity and 
feeling pressure to code-switch

Hidden Beneath My Skin Is A Soul That Nobody Will See

This is not me, nor do I want it to be
Feels like I am in camouflage
It’s hard to see yourself as the same person
In a situation where people
Call you by a different name
It’s like we have to put on a different mask every day
I am the work me
I am the school me
I am the home me
I am the friend
I could be an actress
Standing for too long in one spot
Truth disguised
Broken identity
Overwhelming urge to belong
Doing everything right
And still being afraid that everything will go wrong
Feeling trapped gets tiring
Changing for others instead of ourselves
If I didn’t
My Christian grandparents would know I’m agnostic
It feels like a burden and a lie
Not being who I am on the inside
Like…if I don’t I’ll be an outcast
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid
It’s okay to not be “perfect”
Unless you allow society to tie your own hands behind your back
Craving their acceptance
Because we are insecure
We can never win

Written by LCC students Killian Burcham, Madison David, 
Audrey Spitzfaden, and Chloe Teunis, this poem came 
from source material written by other LCC students in 
response to prompts concerning the cover of The Hate U Give 
and racism.

Read Me

A misunderstanding by white
Supremacists who live their
Lives in fear and anger,
Unnecessary negativity.
Racists are lowlifes with
Nothing better to do.

Overwhelmed by the hate
Oppressors give: HATE
Brings out something within us
We do not recognize.

Can come crashing,
What do you expect when
You give hate?
A woman taking a stand against
The hate you spread,
Putting up a barrier to protect
Herself from what’s happening
To her.

“They don’t understand even
If they’re really trying to”
Is an excuse.
It implies there’s nothing
White people can do to

We can’t spark change if we
Show no change.
I feel less than human.

Written by LCC students Levi Lantz, Taylor Matlock, Sam 
Nichols, and Jake Sinnaeve, came from source material 
written by other LCC students in response to prompts 
concerning identity and feeling pressure to code-switch


                    I can never be myself. Blank canvas.
                  ReD = Family
                 BluE = Friends
                GreeN is the real me
             Living Two lives is exhausting and overwhelming
                 If I were not to change I would be an outsider
                    The people in my life decide who I am
At the end of the daY, people will see me as they choose to.

Written by LCC students Robert Glew, Raymond Latchaw, 
Victor Verhil, and Keaton Woods, this poem came from 
source material written by other LCC students in response 
to prompts concerning recognizing one’s privilege and 
fearing the police.

It’s a Luxury

I can’t help but feel upset.
Yet I continue unphased.
Recognizing the image when blurry, but not in full focus.
I never had to work during high school, watching others worry
while I haven’t had to consider it.  Feels like I’m taking something for granted.
As we grow, we’re all led to believe that the color of our skin
is supposed to define who I am, for “better” or “worse”.
To realize you benefit from a privilege, could make you feel more
important than others. When in reality, you earned something that isn’t
It’s not just color though. I pass a homeless man; despite treating
everyone with respect and humor, I’m somehow complicit
in the misfortune of others.
Not everyone wants to have that privilege over someone
because of skin color and status.


9.  Poetry Project: Spring 2019 LCC One Book Wrap-Up session

This poem, written by Suzanne Bernsten, Sierra Bouyer, 
Curlada Eure-Harris, Julie Linderleaf, Jeanettia Green, 
Marah Jones, and Robert Moore was inspired by the poem 
“Hidden Beneath My Skin Is A Soul That Nobody Will See” 
written by LCC students Emmerson Myhre, Lauren Nugent, 
Kurstina Simmons, and Tucker Tatroe. Both poems were 
inspired by prompts concerning identity and feeling 
pressure to code-switch

The life from which you choose

This is not me, nor do I want it to be
Who am I if I am not only myself?
Why is there a secret that I cannot share with everyone?
The person who others feel I should be.
Angry, angry at society.
Made to feel I am less…
Like a superpower that can be summoned on demand.
It can be exhausting.
I feel trapped beneath a false face.
If I hide, I feel it is not the real me.
But if I don’t, I fear you won’t like what you see.
I wonder what it’s like to always be yourself
What is it like to be unaware?
Some people may not be themselves living their lives as a lie
Feeling as if they chose to be themselves
That person wouldn’t exist anymore
Because they haven’t been themselves in a long time.
Who gets to see the real me?
Who am I with?
What will I show?
I am unique 100%
A complex identity is a high, life right!
We are human genomes 99% shared.

This poem, written by Yolanda Crim, Jahmallia Forde, 
Patti Goggins, Alex Gradilla, Prisca Mtemavalye, 
Leticia Navarro, Ronnie Oliver Jr., Curtis Pratt, 
Jonathan Rosewood, and Kimberly Skorna was inspired by 
the poem “Identity” written by LCC students Levi Lantz, 
Taylor Matlock, Sam Nichols, and Jake Sinnaeve.  Both 
poems were inspired by prompts concerning identity and 
feeling pressure to code-switch

I can never be myself. Blank canvas.

Trapped between two walls of communication
I’m on a journey to discover and grow into a future of self.
Please don’t judge each other or what we see today.
Why do we need to put a label on ourselves?
Am I not good enough? Are you better than me?
Am I not human? Let me be me.
Brown, red, white, blue.
Born here, went there,
told I’m everywhere.
To be myself in this environment, would I be outcasted?
White supremacy plus poverty suppresses me.
My ultimate wish is to express me,
and to JUST let be.
It feels like energy gets depleted at a very fast rate.
I accept myself for who I am,
If you don’t feel free…just leave.

This poem, written by Tonya Bailey, Monica Hemingway, 
Nan Jackson, Melissa Kaplan, Aida Rochid, and Sirpenia 
Stewart was inspired by the poem “Read Me” written by 
LCC students Killian Burcham, Madison David, Audrey 
Spitzfaden, and Chloe Teunis. Both poems were inspired 
by prompts concerning the cover of The Hate U Give and racism.

Read Me,

Don’t judge me,
Don’t overlook me
Don’t exclude me
Maximize Experiencing
   Who I am
   I am Human
I have no words to tell you
What you don’t know about me
So ready to brush off
Push away
Mom said “no that’s a hairstyle for black girls”
It’s like a brick wall
Dad said, “I don’t want you dating black men. They’re no good.”
A blank stare
And my brother overheard.
Every day is like they think they understand,
but do they really?
Why is there still
hate in this modern day?
Why hasn’t it
gone away?
Where have we
gone astray?
Maybe we’re hiding
The Hate We Give
How about loving, caring, and sharing
with others
because we are all
and important.

This poem, written by Mindy Barbarskis, Greg Berry, 
Joshua Braswell, Alma Cameron, Ellie Darnell, Mia Misner, 
and Dr. Pamela Smith was inspired by the poem “It’s a Luxury” 
written by LCC students Robert Glew, Raymond Latchaw, 
Victor Verhil, and Keaton Woods. Both poems were inspired 
by prompts concerning recognizing one’s privilege and 
fearing the police.

I can’t help but feel upset

With the rise in racism
When I feel our American court system is not fair
to all our Citizens
When someone does not hear or see me
When I am not seen for myself
I feel like a broken record saying “I’m sorry”
The rich white people protect their perfect world
I can’t help but feel upset
When I am split between both sides
That most black men fear the police
How do I separate myself from white hands
on a loaded gun?
I can’t help but feel upset
My parents won’t acknowledge their white
skin safety
White privilege not being recognized.


10.  Poetry Project: Fall 2019 Community-Generated Poetry Activity for the September 20th, 2019 Inaugural LCC Student Summit on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Poem by Areli Espinosa, Courtney Kidder, Joe Martin, and 
Bridget Denise Webb, inspired by the line “I, too, have a 

I, too, have a voice
I can speak.
Let me speak
   Speak up
   Speak out
Activism, Advocacy
I, too, can make a difference
What happened to We are Americans?
I, too, can represent,
because we all represent beauty.
And that beauty makes the picture.
I, too, have importance
I, too, contribute to the picture
The picture does not have to be perfect
There is no right way to be me
There is no right way to be beautiful.
Does race matter in America?
Let the haters eat in the kitchen.

Poem by Mahima Biswa, Gary Cox, Kenneth Franklin (MSU BSA), 
Esmerelda, Prisca Mtimavalye, and Richard Winston 
inspired by the line “I, too, have a voice”:

I, too, have a voice.
I feel pain; I feel lost.
I, too, cry in the late night.
I, too, have feelings.
I am hurt, so why did you leave?
I, too, have a voice.
It is just as important as others.
It is filled with confidence and hope.
I will use it without regret.
I, too, will shout until I am heard.
I, too, pay attention.

Poem by Dina Abdulamir, Kyle Atwood, Hadel Essa, and 
Terrell Nelson inspired by the line “I, too, am America”:

I, too, am America
I am the last one
I, too, is proud of what I am.
I am not free as a black man
I, too, am a survivor of hatred.

Poem by Madison Buckholz, Maria del Mar Osma Potes, 
Jahmallia Forde, Brandon Lawler, Lisa Morgan, Angela Patrick,
and Katrina Zimmermann inspired by the line “I, too, am America”:

I, too, am America…
   I am able to use my voice to say
I, too am America…
   I live, work, learn, socialize.
   I pay taxes and help make
        America great again.
We, too, are America…
   Although we were born
        near and far.
I, too, am America…
   I chafe under your expectations
        of home and hearth.
I, too, am America…
   Oppressed and marginalized.
   Poor and ostracized.
I, too, am America…
   Where there is freedom.
        But, is it really free?

Poem by Cortney Browning ,Carl Browning, Jr., Keonte Campbell,
Alex Rivera Cordero, Marisa Elzy, Basil Oli, and Alyeea Turner,
inspired by the line “I, too, am powerful”:

I, too, am powerful.
I, too, am important, I, too, possess value.
My resistance is my display of power,
God gave me power! My presence is strong.
My thoughts are valuable,
I bring a different flavor of strength to the team
to make the team powerful.
I am strong. They speak, like I am young.
I am not. My mind is clear, and I wait patiently.
One day they will look at me and realize, I, too, am
I, too, am a black woman,
I have a voice that is more than just noise.
I, too, am powerful.
Embracing my uniqueness
and how it shows up in how I talk, how I walk, and carry
Feudal lords look down on the scrambling serfs, that are we
Except you refuse to be that lowly figure.
You are the overpass
Whose level I aspire to meet.

11.  Spring 2020: The Vote and Your Voice Poetry Project


SPRING 2020 ENGL 201 Poetry Project Poems: The Vote and Your Voice

ENGL 201 students contributed lines to the 15th, 19th and Youth Discussion boards after reading/highlighting the responses/raw material from hundreds of LCC students responding to the prompts in their own classes. I took the rough lines written by my 201 students, and wove together poems for each of the groups. Then I shared the rough poems and got their feedback for final revisions…which made me an author with the students 🙂  Here are the final poems – truly a work of community-generation.


Voting is…

Voting is a responsibility.

I have a say in who I am.

I’m here. I’m gonna tell you about me.

It is hard to vote, even when you know how

you want things changed in your world.


Voting is in everyone’s capability.

I have a say in our world.

It’s easy to know what you want but hard to know if you’ll end up with it.

Voting is difficult if you’re doing it right.

Anyone can vote for anyone


Voting is for the good of the Nation

I have a say in my vote.

I don’t believe most politicians; a pop rally sounds good at first

but there’s no message behind it.

I can vote and make a change.


Voting demands your participation.

I have a say in who we will be led by.

I have a voice and a right to use it,

to choose someone who might inevitably be corrupted

(gaining power is never good).


Do you remember that time not so long ago?

There was a time where only a select few could vote,

but things have changed.

We get the opportunity to decide

what our future will be like.


I have the right to make a change.

US citizens can make a change.

I have a say, a right to be represented, to be acknowledged.

I am not a number. Equality.  Every vote is valuable…?

I can voice my opinion.


Do you remember a time not so long ago?

The rich, elite, the white man controlled who voted,

but that is a time long past.

I am a part of that big decision.



We can all vote now, but there was a time…

Do you remember that time not so long ago?

Voting is important for our nation.

If I can vote, I will vote

Voting is…


by Christian Heuhs, Brenden Hutchins, Juliette Lanz, Celeste Montalvo, Andrew Schneider, Quinn Sheppard, Cameron Vann, and Barb Clauer (written in response to prompts re: the 15th Amendment)

Vote Or the Enemy Rises – Lines on the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage)

100 years ago, we made a difference.

Do you remember the struggle, the fight, the triumph?

Voting today is the way it should have been.

Women deserve an opinion.

Voting isn’t a privilege; voting is a right,

your voice is heard.


I want to try and make a difference,

to be the voice of the empowered republic.

I wish I could turn off biases

so that this vote will truly be mine.


Voters overcome the evolving resistance

and are no longer bystanders, but participants.

The rights that women achieved help all people.

Voting gives equal opportunities.


When I vote, my vote becomes a sword

and then it puts the elite on edge.

My vote becomes a speck of dust and then,

with all the other votes, a sandstorm.

My vote becomes a bird and then it flocks.

It has power and is servant to the people


Voting is a part of something bigger

When representation expands, we all succeed.

Stand for what you believe in before

you must stand behind something you don’t.

100 years ago is the blink of an eye.

Vote or the enemy rises.


by Kayla Hall, Brooke Hill, Andrew Schneider, Quinn Sheppard, and Barb Clauer (written in response to prompts re: the 19th Amendment)

the future in our hands

voting is like…

um I don’t know

it affects my future

and something needs to change

why take the voice I have for granted?


there is no such thing as a wasted vote

today’s world is filled with the people of tomorrow

every citizen counts, voting is our right

but if voting makes such a difference

why do we feel that it doesn’t?


the world has and will continue to evolve and change

but if voting makes such a difference

then every citizen counts; it is their right

there is no such thing as a wasted vote,

but why do we feel that there is?


voting is like…

adding an ingredient to a soup

or a grain of rice, tipping a scale

deciding the degree of hell that we live in

hopefully I’ll make a change.


by Juliette Lanz, Sam McQuaid, Andrew Schneider, Quinn Sheppard, and Barb Clauer (written in response to prompts re: youth/first time voters)

12.  Fall 2020 Visiting History Scholar Series: Community-Generated Poetry Activity

The poets who contributed lines to the poems are: Barb Clauer, David Guard, Nea Harris, Anne Heutsche, Jeremy Hockett, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Erika Schieberl, Pamela Smith


Poem 1: Anger and Privilege

“There are so many roots to the tree of anger…/which me will survive/all these liberations.” (opening line + last 2 lines of “Who Said it Was Simple” 1973 by Audre Lorde)

“Why should we lower ourselves to ‘equal rights’ when we already have the status of special privilege? — Phyllis Schlafly (1972) re: her Anti-ERA stance


Who said it was simple

to push our resilient roots through patriarchal concrete

buckle the sidewalk and

forge our own path for the special privilege of this uphill journey?


There are many feathers in the wings of desire

hopes soar to become what we want


The righteous roots of feminist rage creep above the ground

and threaten to uproot the tree of equality and freedom.

Will woman survive this anger or will they be destroyed in the struggle?


The privileged picture equal rights a bed of smoldering ash,

stinking and sodden

I picture liberation privilege’s explosion,

a fury of flames,

spreading the sweet scent of freedom


What are the roots of this privilege?

From which tree have they burrowed

Into the soil seeking to nourish

A self-righteous and wrathful woman


There was no practice for this anger I felt.

Sudden, and unknown

“Hush, now”

But, the blood pushing through scattered veins had never learned how.


Liberation – no glory for me, special privilege – above what is usually considered privilege.

it posits how we will survive liberation

gender equality is a reduction

To leave swinging her sisters from its branches of liberation?

Poem 2: Sons and God

“wishes for sons” the title of a 1987 poem by Lucille Clifton

“Women have babies and men don’t. If you don’t like this fundamental difference between men and women, you will have to take your complaint to God.” — Phyllis Schlafly (1972)


Are you there God? It’s me, mother of sons and I have a complaint:

I cannot find the ear where I might whisper my wishes for sons

for my sons…

I wish them epiphany without blindness, revelation without suffering

but for others?

I wish the pain of childbirth, the haunt of assault,

keys poised as claws in self-defense as they walk in darkness

and the eternal weight of women’s collective memories:

epiphany by revelation


childfree women

desire fulfillment

wonton women


How men hunger to understand a women’s world?

To be able to create another life within herself is the power

that God endowed to women. She was pleased.

Sons long to return to the womb of where they sprang.

Sons wish to have the power of life.


My son, were I to ever have one, would be my baby too.

I’d show him how to swim against the world’s tide

And hope that one day others join him


reckless desire

all god’s creation


wide eyes to see all the ways of love –

brave hearts to feel beyond the fear –

For unknown reasons

would your god want any less for your sons…or daughters?

Poem 3: Human and Woman 

“That she somehow is not a human thing…/A wing, a branch, an extra, not mankind—” (From stanza #6 of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1911 poem “The Anti-Suffragists”)

“Women who Want to be Women” — (WWWW) A Texas women’s group formed by anti-ERA activist Lottie Beth Hobbs


Can the hawk fly wingless?

Does the oak survive without its branches?


Her presence is unique to those who seek her company.

what is a woman, a man, a human

a woman who wants to be human

a man who wants to be a woman

As you see me.

a woman, as strong as her roots


Keep your rib, sir, I have my own, full breasted and meaty

Women formed from a rib, a bone and not a human thing.

Not of mankind, women are bones and part of the earth.

They will be worn down to ash and then provide

sustenance for women who want to be women


Tell me once more what makes me a woman.

Tell me what appearance will satisfy,

and bind me to this world once more,

As a woman

Poem 4: Living and Battling

“Live not for battles won./Live not for the-end-of-the-song./Live in the along.” – Gwendolyn Brooks 1991 poem “Speech to the Young”

“The women began fighting both battles in the name of the American family” — Dr. Robin Morris writing about GA STOP ERA – 1972 (the 2 battles = STOP ERA and abortion)


How do we understand anything beyond “battle”

cooperate is even an odd word with too much emptiness within it –

how do we measure our loot?

wagin wars to heal souls

I find happiness in every day. Lord I thank you!

who is the medicine woman

Where is my justice?


The women understood they were planting

the seeds of liberation for the next generation.

They were living to provide the words,

the stanzas the tools to survive and thrive.

Women know how to craft together families from the scraps of their lives.

The women were fighting by resisting, persisting and creating

songs that cry for battle seeking justice


I see nothing within the battle

It is from along the sides of the fight that the picture becomes clear

warriors of the quiet moment, the crying moment,

once in the battlefield graves, the fight fell away

and all the souls shared the same stars

leave no one behind


13. Fall 2020 Inaugural “Inspiration Exchange” Community-Generated Poetry Activity


The following three poems were created by participants in the first Inspiration Exchange session via a community-generated poetry activity using the following steps/process.  The poets who contributed lines to the poems are: Barb Clauer, Paige Dunckel, Faith Edwards, Meg Elias, Ben Garrett, Anne Heutsche, Melissa Kaplan, and Jim Luke.

Inspiration lines used from Mary Oliver’s poem “I Go Down to the Shore”:  “…And the sea says/in its lovely voice:/Excuse me, I have work to do.”

And the Sea Says

And the sea says in its lovely voice:

Come with me and be my guest

see for yourself how your confusion

impedes your quest.

You seek the sea and seek the sand yet

you stay in no man’s land….oh see within little one.


The sun keeps shining, ignoring me.

I step into the wave and feel the pull;

the wave separates me from my misery

the work separates me from my paralysis.

To do and to be, to do and to be.


I wrote a poem about the ocean once.

I could not take my eyes off the curves of the waves.

It was not work I was thinking of in that moment,

but the call of the moon.

It’s a never-ending refrain,

and the shores are rocky


I’m still, but the world keeps moving, leaving me behind.

In the quiet of the woods

where we find growth and decay

is an evocative tug on our heart strings:

we come from and return to the earth.

Now I am thinking about missing the ocean,

face toward the mist

little toes to tickle, tears to catch.


From loss to hope Is not a straight path.

It winds through grief and anger.

It stops at hurt. Often it stops at hurt.

But taken together, riding with compassion,

we can make it through resolve to hope.

Excuse me, I have work do to.

Inspiration lines from Marge Piercy’s poem “To be of use”:  “I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,/who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,/who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,/who do what has to be done, again and again.”


To Harness Ourselves

We strain in the mud and the muck

to move things forward.

But when my mind is blank

and I can hold no more of people and work

I retreat to hold my dogs.

Breathe, close my eyes, silence

and receive unconditional love.


Gargle, girgle, gurgle goes the muck around my boot.

Stuck in one place and trying to free myself,

I giggle and call for help.

Help comes in the form of my dog,

Who is now stuck in the muck and tugging on my boot.

How will we free ourselves?

Stepping out of my boots,

I step into the muck which oozes between my toes.

Freeing myself, I work to free the dog

one step at a time, together.

I love dirt. The dirt. Never a dirt. Never just dirt.

Castilano’s Trayectoria del polvo, the path of dust.

It is a beautiful thing to think of dust moving beneath us.


I love people who harness themselves

who strain, who do what has to be done again and again.

But even more are those who do what must be done

not because it is time again, but because it ought to be done.

My hands are out, waiting to be taken;

pulled up, pushed forward. I’m here.

My shoulder wedges against yours as we pull,

together we are stronger.

Even distanced I can feel the yoke

constraining, focusing, biting,

patient in its weight.


Is it too soon to pull the blankets back?

To know it all goes on and be reminded:

bees must carry on to survive, and so must I.

Inspiration lines from Mark Nepo’s poem “Adrift”:  “Everything is beautiful and I am so sad./This is how the heart makes a duet of/wonder and grief. The light spraying/through the lace of the fern is as delicate/as the fibers of memory forming their web/around the knot in my throat.”


The Knot of Memory

Silk spider filament alone is air,

but filament on filament on filament

becomes a steel cable, tied to the past

tied to me. Beautiful in sunlight or rain.

The light is delicate and fleeting. At night it will be gone.

But the web of my memory encases my wonder

and grief that I may ever be with them.


I do not know what memories form or how to form them

but they are a thread, intertwined like a duet,

each fiber holding me together

I have a very personal relationship with fiber.

It is both sad and, while I would not say beautiful,

I would say delicate and strong, or strength forming,

like a web built to catch me that sometimes

entangles awkwardly around my throat.


I drive by people walking, laughing, fighting or just living

and I wonder: What’s the use of that? Who do you think you are?

A speck of dust in the universe, in my eye.

I say to myself, count your blessings…really? Seriously?

Blessings are everywhere and so is despair.

Why did I have to lose a child? Seriously?


My grief is weighing heavily on me

Ephemeral like dust,

weighing heavy on refugees’ backs

like the layers of clothes,

we wear to battle the bitter cold.

Who will win?


Transient like wind, turning shacks to shatters.

The cold starts to seep into my bones!

Then the sun hits my face.  The snow glistens.

The dogs yip in glee, bouncing in the snow!

In that holy moment,

The layers of sorrow melt, but stay a part of me,

soft like water, shaping granite.



14. 2020-2021 Poetry Project in collaboration with LCC’s “We Shall Overcome: Raising Our Voices Together” Virtual Choir Event

2020-2021 Poetry Project: “We Shall Overcome”                                        Community-Generated Poems:  8 prompts, 80+ student responders, 8 poets, 5 poems

When I Sing with Others (re: Prompt #5 When I sing with others, my voice becomes a __ and then it ___)


When I sing with others, my voice becomes a

beacon of light, an anchor, an echo

and then it guides,

smooth like butter on a hot pan.


It becomes a low rumble, invoking a primal force,

and then my voice rises, growing in intensity,

gathering with others, becoming a surge

of truth and undeniable unity.

It becomes a tidal wave that washes over everyone

an earthquake that moves mountains.


When I sing with others, my voice becomes

a seed that blossoms

a part of something greater than myself,


My voice is a vibe and then a party with friends.


It’s a beacon and then it echoes.

an instrument and then it amplifies

My voice becomes a Siren

that blends as I get in tune and harmonize


When I sing with others, my voice becomes

a small ingredient in the recipe

it becomes part of a whole, growing in strength

My voice becomes a wave and then it spreads


It becomes a bird, that flocks and then soars

ensuring everyone hears the messages.

My voice becomes a thread

that pulls us together.


When I sing with others, my voice

becomes an instrument that amplifies

a chorus beyond me

We gather force, sending a message of urgency

heard by the ears that need hope


My voice becomes a carrier and then a reason

Singing together, we are more powerful and far-reaching

than the sum of each part

My voice is a part that becomes the whole,

synecdoche, cacophony, euphony

and then translucent light.


Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink

New Verses (from Prompt 6: add a new verse to “We Shall Overcome” – this is the one I’m hoping others will work with to more skillfully arrange and hopefully sing it following “We Shall Overcome”)


We have come this far

We have come this far

We have come this far, today

Hope will aid us through

I know it to be true

we have come this far today


Say her name, say his name

we are not to blame

it seems they are hunters

and we are their game

We live in a world of fear, a cry for help,

for the future, for our own sake


Though others scream lies,

though others scream lies

Though others scream lies today!

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall speak with one voice someday.


We shall see the light,

We shall see the light

We shall see the light someday

O deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall see the light someday


We breathe the same,

We sleep the same,

We all have a heart.

We can make the world start anew.

Tangled up in Blue;

Behold the Temple of Light


Bring us together,

in any kind of weather,

to march for right, in plain sight,

bring peace to the world,

and freedom unfurl,

come back to win, again and again.


Stand with loved ones,

stand with all,

today does not determine tomorrow.

and even if I fall, I am no longer alone,

the fight will rage on,

as I am on my way home.


Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink

Only Titles (from Prompt 7: What title would you give your civil rights anthem?)


Together We Thrive

We Fight as One

I Release Myself to Love

The End of Divisions

We All Live Free

United with Love

The Path Is Yet to Be Walked

A Step Forward

Today is A Day

It Will Not End Here


No More

We Won’t Stop Now

Your Soul is Infinite

I Release Myself to Love

The World Needs a Change

We are One

The Justice We Deserve

Freedom Belongs to Everyone

The Future is at Stake.

Wake Up


Poets: Suzanne Bernsten, Barb Clauer, Willie Davis, Jennifer Hood, Melissa Kaplan, Kali Majumdar, Chuck Page, Jon Ten Brink

Unstoppable (from Prompt 8: Singing as an act of protest is powerful because_________.)


I once sang a Swedish protest song

covered in bruises

eyes still stinging

from the tear gas and pepper spray.

Singing is more powerful than shouting;

It’s the souls’ key and no one can silence

a song we all know.


If you sing, you will be heard

a shared act of creation, the calm power

that although seems weak,

may, in fact,

be unstoppable.


Poets: Melissa Kaplan and Barb Clauer

We Are Not Afraid

(from Prompt #2: One verse of the song is simply “We are not afraid” repeated.  Afraid of what?)


Fear will not oppress us.

Fear will not control us.

Of course we are afraid but

together we are stronger than our fear.

The cloud of uncertainty looms but

we are not afraid of losing hope,

not afraid of change,

not afraid of freedom.

Our futures are unguaranteed but

we can envision the future

and we are not afraid.


Poet:  Barb Clauer


15. Spring 2021 Malcolm X Symposium: Community-Generated Poetry Activity

Our Song is Not a Solo


Stand with loved ones

Stand with all

Stand with me in sorrow

Stand with me in joy.

Today does not determine tomorrow,

And even if I fall, I am no longer alone;

There’s a landing with each other.


You fell but you continued to rise.

Hold your head up high,

Every day moving forward

Your voice matters.

Jonathan is not alone.

Quan is not alone.

To love is to share;

To share is to love

We can’t be wrong if this is where we belong.


Stand when you feel like sitting

Stand for solidarity even when there’s no popularity

Stand with love

Stand with sacrifice

Stand with humbleness.


West Michigan djembe rhythm binds us

Propels us forward in equity.

Lift each other, lift our voices

Carry our song to the past, present and future;

Our song is not a solo.


Poets: Sylvia J. Brown Jones, James Campbell, Maxine Hankins Cain, Barb Clauer, Michelle Curtin, Willie Davis, Jeanne Donado, Melissa Kaplan, Dara Mayhoe, Gezelle Oliver, Steve Robinson, Alice G. Thompson.


In Lansing, Michigan

To love is to share

At Lansing Community College

To share is to love

We’re in this together


Poets: Barb Clauer, Jeanne Donado and Steve Robinson

Courage Embedded  


Even when I fall

and seaweed binds my mind

I see a fine shore beckoning,

the beginning of a story based on rivers of Shiny stardust.

Alone through a voyage, my ancestors came

Alone through time, with heartache and pain.

What they encountered, I cannot comprehend.

Their courage embedded; my heart is its home,

Their bravery lives on; I am not alone.


Stirred to love, understanding, and empathy

for my kinspeople, I shout never give up

always rise, forever rise in unconditional love.

We are resilient, valuable and strong

and will hold each other up.

Stand strong as family, stand strong in the wind.

I depend on the strength of my family

to help me stand once again

We stand for a better tomorrow;

We are stronger together.


Poets: Sylvia J. Brown Jones, Maxine Hankins Cain, Barb Clauer, Melissa Kaplan, Ronda Miller, Niall, Andres Olvera

16. Spring 2021 Visiting History Scholar Series: Community-Generated Poetry Activity

Poem 1: People not Problems

“But Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings.” (from Angela Davis’ “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”) AND“I call for you cultivation of strength in the dark/Dark gardening/…I call for you/cultivation of strength to heal and enhance” (from “To Prisoners” 1981 poem by Gwendolyn Brooks)


Prisons do not disappear problems,

they disappear human beings.

But human beings do not really disappear.

None of us is truly solitary.


I hear you history

I am you history

those imprisoned, those who accused

those harmed, those denied their freedom.


The emptiness is felt; we lose our men

courtesy of a system designed to collect them.

The problems remain the people do not.

They return, but without their full minds


I call for you

cultivation of strength in the dark: dark gardening

Where do we find solace?

Where do we conjure our strength?


Dark soil represents possibilities

for things to grow big with strong, deep roots.

Roots provide strength and connection to the past

But…strong roots can wreak destruction

Make us prisoner to the story told

and gardeners of our pain.

What are the roots of our humanity?


They want us to disappear, they want to bury us,

but hope blooms.

Tiller of my own strength,

pushing tendrils through concrete

toward the light

fruits growing out of oppression.


by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick, and Jim Luke

Poem 2: Choice not Accident

“History is not just stuff that happens by accident. If we are White, we are products of our ancestors’ choice. If we are Black, we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose.” (Gannon quote from the documentary 13th) AND “If we must die, let it not be like hogs/ Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,/ While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,/ Making their mock at our accursèd lot.” (Claude McKay 1919 poem “If We Must Die”.)

If we must choose

let it not be in ignorance,

puppets of history.

If we can choose –

choose to know.


I choose the choice made for me,

the accident of history,

I reject the choice made for me,

but not by accident.


How does the telling of American history change

If we are Black or White?

If we are Female or Male?

If we are Young or Old?

If we live in the West or East or North and South


Unaware is the way most choose;

let us all choose aware and conscious

and choose a path of growth and life

lest we be hunted or hunter


We are history, erased, not happening to me

If we choose a delightfully horrible (truthful) history of America

Must we die to being the “good” nation?

Must we die to our ignorance?

Must we die to our willful innocence

Does history continue to mock the ones who are silenced, forgotten, omitted?


We are strength, endurance.

We are history, although erased, we will remember.

standing up, back straight,

eyes front, soul calm.

No more accidents.


by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche, Jeff Janowick, and Jim Luke

Poem 3: Who Gets to Be an American?

“What does it mean to be an American and who gets to answer that question?” (from Gannon Keynote “Baked into the Cake: Race and Policy in American History”) AND “I, too, sing America/…They’ll see how beautiful I am/ and be ashamed – / I, too, am America.” (from Langston Hughes’ 1926 poem “I, Too” lines 1 and 16-18


What does it mean to be an American?

The American melting pot

forges something homogenous

while deleting individual ingredients.


Ashamed to live in a nation where

we exclude, we hate

we chose denial

we refuse to recognize

the humanity in the other

What does it mean to be an American?

Resist melting into complacency.


I, too, imagine an America anew;

To live in a nation that

nurtures, includes

seeks truth, answers the call of justice,

that creates and builds a “beloved” community


American land is my home

in all of its beauty and tragedy,

in its hopes and dreams to be better.

It belongs to those who seek refuge.

It belongs to all of us and none of us.

We must acknowledge we occupy

this land that was loved once before us.

I am here on this land. To love this land.

I am american.


Who sings America?

Who gets to answer that question?

America is the cacophony

I, too, am America.


by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche

Poem 4: Seeds of Hope

“As teachers we are in the seed planting business” Radical Hope – A Teaching Manifesto by Dr. Kevin Gannon.  AND What are your radical hopes for the seeds you plant?


My radical hope is

for young girls to find self-love

for unshaved legs and happy hearts

for reflective moments and small joys

for memories of a life well lived;

a hope that we can all achieve that


I am a seed gatherer;

I gather knowledge and facts.

I am a seed sower;

I sow curiosity, kindness, and truths

I will turn into a seed of radical hope

that will be sown by the next generation.


Radical connectedness is my hope;

that our seeds’ fragile roots seek

and entwine with others’ roots

to pull knowledge and nutrients

from history’s soil.


by: Barb Clauer, Annescia Dillard, Anne Heutsche


17. Fall 2021 Poetry Project in collaboration with LCC’s “Please Stay: A Call for Suicide and Depression Awareness” Multi-Genre Event


18. Spring 2022 Writing Innovation Symposium Community-Generated Poem

The Beast

Deer run their whole life.

It has to fight, even hurt

itself in the process.

It can quietly take over your entire life;

you never know when its noise

will tear you to shreds.


Tigers sneak up and attack –

my head, like a lion –

you can still smile and suffer, grizzly bear,

like a panda because you would barely

be alive.


Like sharks, blood thirsty,

jellyfish sting as you swim in circles.

Octopus grab slowly draining your life,

they hide in deep waters, waiting.

You feel left behind, swimming

in your own thoughts with no way out.




murder of crows

angler fish

a panda






because it slowly grabs hold of you,

burrows, in the dark, cold, crushing lonely ocean.


Cats do not do, they lay;

black cat constantly circling you

it clings to and traps whatever it has.


Like a sad dog:

lots of damage in a small space.

It doesn’t communicate on the same


The last of its kind.


Like Lyme disease

like I was dying

from the inside out –

like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh

it remains unseen

but not unknown.

The ravaging effects,

you would barely be alive.

Only those strong

enough to shake it off survive.

When was the last time you were happy?


A snake can come out of nowhere, always alone,

strangles, constricts, and slowly squeezes life out.


I am the loneliest animal on Earth,

suffering from isolation and

trapped, like I’m dying on the inside.


The world is constantly falling apart

through no fault of its own.


They continue coming back to get your things.


It won’t quit until you kill it yourself.

Why wait until darkness comes

to begin again?


Poets: Jessica Edwards, Jenn Fishman, Rebekah Fowler, Jenni Moody, and Kristen Tetzlaff


19. Fall 2022 Imagining America session 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



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

Five collaboratively written Poems from 2/3/23 LCC Community-Generated Poetry Project Workshop

“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