Hello, all! Intern Joshua here, looking forward to another week of workshops!
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been attending the Kids Workshops at the Broome County Public Library. As the cliché goes, I’m learning as much, if not more from the kids who attend the workshops, than they from us.
Among the things I’m learning include: a child will include the word poop as many times as humanly possible into a single poem, regardless of whether or not it makes sense within the context of the poem.
A child will ask you to spell essentially every word in their entire poem (except, surprisingly, poop) – and when you spell a word wrong, they won’t hesitate to call you out.
A child, like someone who’s been writing for thirty or forty years, will write about what they know. They will write about a show they watched on television the night before, or a video game that they play every night, or a mean teacher they have. They will write about what Mom packed for lunch that day, or a book they read, or their neighbor’s cat.
This past summer working as a camp counselor, I witnessed lots of tears. Someone was always budging someone in line, or teasing them, or looking at them the wrong way. At the end of one particular day, a father came to retrieve his child. Upon his arrival, she was in tears over losing her lollipop (which was promptly replaced). While consoling his daughter, he looked at me and said, “These are big deals to little kids.”
Maybe this girl wouldn’t have written a poem about heartbreak. Maybe she wouldn’t have written a poem about loss, or about the love of her life. What she would have written, however, is a compelling tale consisting of details and emotions associated with memories of a misplaced mystery flavor Dum Dum. Because that’s what she knows. Because that’s what she’s feeling, and that’s what’s going to keep her from getting any sleep that night.
People write about what they know. I write about the cute barista at Starbucks who sometimes remembers my order, because that’s what I know. I write about my insecurities, because they’re what I know. I write about my mother, and my childhood, and chocolate milk. Because that’s what I know. Because these are big deals to me.
I’m finding that the workshops are more than just a place for kids to learn the fundamentals of poetry – which they do. I’m finding that they are an outlet for the kids to put on paper, and share with people who truly listen to them. Things that may be weighing on them. And, yes, sometimes that may be poop. And mean teachers, and video games, and annoying pets, and picking your nose. But these are big deals for little kids. The workshops give our young poets validation, from their peers and their instructors, that their feelings are justified, and completely valid. Week by week, in an incredibly carefree, fun atmosphere, the workshops are aiding in developing a sense of assurance and autonomy in the next generation of poets.