Anyone Can Write: If I Were A...

July 29, 2009

Whew. Teaching 30 or so kids about poetry—all under the age of 11—is much harder than I ever imagined. . .

Ruminate teamed up with two churches here in Fort Collins (Grace Presbyterian and Agua Viva) and every morning for a week we held a "poetry workshop"--helping kids write poems and then collecting these poems into a book for each child and concluding the week with a poetry reading. It was very interesting, and exhausting, to say the least. And it makes me look forward to the year when we'll offer year-round online writers workshops--hopefully soon!

But mostly I was just amazed at how these kids could tell such lively stories about God--with no sense of any boundaries or irreverence. Their metaphors and connections were so unexpectedly inspiring. When I asked them to write a poem beginning with the prompt "If I were a..." they came up with lines like "If I were a scientist then God would be the potions and chemicals and cure every disease..." and "If I were a RAW wrestler" (not sure exactly what this is) "then God would be the crowd cheering me on to win the fight." Or when writing poems with hyperbole, they wrote lines like "My God is so huge that he could run across the Atlantic ocean in one step and not even break a sweat."

I loved hearing what they came up with. And even more, I loved seeing all of them get the chance to call themselves poets (admittedly, some of them enjoyed this title more than others).

This week reminded me of the Pixar movie Ratatoullie, where the main character, a little rat who also happens to be a wonderful chef, discovers that his culinary hero's motto "anyone can cook" doesn't mean that just anyone can pick up a sauté pan and be a great chef, but rather, that a great chef can come from anywhere--even from the rat species. I think the same is true of writing. Great poets can come from anywhere--even a little 5th grader named Reese who dreams of being "either a scientist or a writer, or maybe a writing scientist" as she put it.

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