Poetry on the Fly: Saint Mary’s Hall Celebrates National Day on Writing

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Emily Donaldson / Rivard Report

Saint Mary's Hall students crowd the Typewriter Rodeo table at the school's National Day on Writing event Friday.

Saint Mary’s Hall seventh grader San waited in line in his school’s gym Friday morning, hoping one of the poets from Typewriter Rodeo would craft a custom poem for him about one of his greatest passions: the Baltimore Ravens.

Wearing a black and purple Ravens pullover, San gave his topic to poet Sean Petrie, who was seated in front of a vintage typewriter, and watched as his poem clacked into life. Petrie wrote verses on the spot, stopping occasionally to ask questions about the Ravens’ record and current roster, and soon delivered San’s poem.

“… History is on / Repeat – / With Lamar Jackson leading the crushing / Offense / With the Ravens flying / Atop their division / And with cheers / Of  ‘Champions!’ / Waiting / In the future … ” the poem read.

The 19-line creation recounted Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis’ time with the Ravens and foreshadowed future celebrations.

“The Ravens are my favorite team, and I wanted to see a poem come out of it,” San said. “I don’t think I could have come up with one like this.”

Emily Donaldson / Rivard Report

Saint Mary’s Hall student San holds up his custom poem about the Baltimore Ravens.

Saint Mary’s Hall marked the National Day on Writing, organized by the National Council of Teachers of English, with the clatter of typewriters, spoken poetry, and haikus. As in years past, English teachers brought each of their elementary, middle, and high school classes to the school’s gym to celebrate the day focused on the written word. Saint Mary’s Hall’s 2019 theme was poetry.

Typewriter Rodeo, a group of poets from Austin, took requests from students and created poems on the spot.

While ninth-grade student Ali stood in line to have her poem created, she brainstormed a topic for the verse.

For last year’s National Day on Writing, the theme was letters, and Ali wrote a letter to herself that she read at middle school graduation.

“I mainly asked myself questions like, are you still friends with the same people and do you like the same music?” Ali said.

An avid writer, Ali enjoys writing short stories. Her favorite subject to write about is ghosts.

As a line formed in front of the Typewriter Rodeo poets, students also visited other activity stations to learn about acrostic poetry and haikus and how to use interactive tools like magnetic words to write their own verses.

After students wrote their own poems, they read them outside at an open microphone in a makeshift poetry café.

Students also contributed to collaborative poems to which each child contributed a verse. Teachers planned to display the elementary, middle, and high school creations to demonstrate a key lesson: Every student has a voice and ability to create poetry.

“A lot of students think poetry is inaccessible or might be afraid to write it on their own,” English teacher Megan Soukup said. “We wanted to theme this year’s National Day on Writing around poetry so students can get familiar with it and realize it isn’t as scary as they think.”

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