Meaningful Writing Project

For the Meaningful Writing Project survey, I responded that the most meaningful writing project that I had done in college was a self-directed poetry portfolio for my Poetry I class with Professor Carol-Ann Davis. At the time, this project was really eye opening for me, as I was forced to deal with the baggage of my first home in respect to my father and my now mixed-feelings that I have towards the place. I has to draft many poems, and create new ones, all based around a theme I chose, which is the island. I felt like I grew a lot doing this project, even though it was frustrating and confusing at times. It was hard to get a good handle on it.

During my semester in France, I took a class in creative nonfiction. Here, we wrote many essays in response to prompts, and one happened to be on my father and his family. My professor asked me to draft this essay multiple times, and eventually turn it in as my final. What started as just about my absent father transformed into a story about Block Island as well, as it seems like these are parts of my life that coincide and need to be told together. This project was much more healing to me. I realized that I really made way, not only in my writing but emotionally, because the genre of the work was clearer. I didn’t need to worry about the poetics of it; I could say what I wanted to.

Here’s a video of Block Island:

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Poetry for Peace

In third grade, I won a poetry competition in my elementary school. The prompt was “What does the flag mean to you?”. I wrote a poem composed of couplets, each starting with When I think of the flag… and followed by some patriotic tidbit. I recall sitting in the hallway of Deans Mill Elementary School, drafting it over, and wanting it so bad. They announced the winner’s names over the intercom at school, and I simply could not believe it. My family felt the mixed emotions of excitement for my recognition, and panic that I would have to read in front of a giant Flag Day ceremony on our playground blacktop the following week.

I barely remember the day. But I do know that this is when I developed a small liking for poetry. Of course, everyone likes being told they are good at something. I like doing well and I like winning. This was my first taste of that, which set me up to try to write good poetry up through my teenage years. This small interest led me to get my first poem published at age 17, and to eventually become the Poet Laureate of my high school class. My Flag Day experience came full circle when I wrote and read a poem for my high school graduation.

The Poetry for Peace event was not only adorable, but inspiring. These elementary and middle school students had so many simple and beautiful ideas of what peace was to them, centered around family and friends and small joys of daily life. It hardly seemed like anyone had nerves, as each student walked up to the mic and read confidently, followed by the crowd erupting with applause and cheers. The kids radiated pride. I loved that although the students came from very different backgrounds, economically and racially, between Fairfield and Bridgeport, they both had similar ideas of peace. No matter the amount of privilege, all children want is to play in the pool with their brother, or toss the ball around with dad, or sit in bed with a book.

My Flag Day Poem is still hanging on the top of the stairs in my grandparent’s house, framed and printed on patriotic stock paper. When I see it, I remember where my love of writing started. I hope that Poetry for Peace has the same effect, and provokes a love in writing in many of the talented students who read at the event.Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 9.56.28 PM

Survey: How does a “good student” write?

It was easy enough to ask five people to describe how a “good student” writes, as I share an apartment with five other girls. I approached each of them, either solo or in groups.

Sarah was washing the dishes.

“Sarah, describe how a good student writes”.

She responded that it helps to read a lot, and also practice often to get better. Good, strong vocabulary.

“Do you mean things, like, sentence structure?”

Sure.

“Well, that type of thing, too”.

Maddie, Maya, and Colleen were huddled over their homework in a bedroom. I was going to ask them individually, but decided to just open up the question to the group as a whole. Maddie was at a blank, and needed time to think about it. Maya and Colleen both answered that a good student writes in a neat and organized way. Maya originally thought the question was aimed around note-taking. When I asked her, ‘how do you know a good paper when you see one?’ she added that it’s done thoughtful and concisely. Maddie finally responded that a good student will engage the reader in their writing.

Gill was in her room. She said factually, organized, and concise. 

“I’m a bad writer, so anything I wouldn’t do.”

I noticed that everyone was frazzled by this question. I had to clarify or narrow the question (create a constraint, I suppose) for each person to feel comfortable to give me an answer. It seems that everyone used themselves and other students as a focus point for what makes good and bad writing. Gill, a math major, was particularly hard on herself!

I find it interesting that most of the answers have to do with form, and not content. Organized, neat, and concise. 

I liked how Sarah answered the question; she told me how good students seem to become good writers. The OGFWT talks a little about this in the Common Misconceptions of Writing Instruction. Is reading and then writing about great literary works a good way to teach writing? My mom always tells me that if I want to write, I need to read first. I can understand how reading good writing by great writers can serve as an example of what to do, ourselves. Not only in form, but also in content.

I think my own answer would be somewhat like Maddie’s: To engage the reader. This is a big part of it. I also believe that a good student will answer the question in their writing, whatever that question may be, asked or not. I think clarity is important, and all my roommates said. A good student writes to answer the question, or maybe prove a point, in the most clear and concise way possible, while engaging the reader.