I was eating Goldfish crackers and was bored
So I looked at the ingredients
I got really mad because the first ingredient listed was “smiles”
Where do they get smiles?
Do they cut smiles off little kids faces?
Because if they do, that’s really messed up.
What are smiles made of?
And is there any nutritional value?
Is there a high sodium count?
Is there any sugar in smiles?
What if you’re a vegetarian—do they have tofu smiles?
How do you know if a smile’s gone bad?
When’s the expiration date?
Where do they harvest smiles? A smile farm?
I think I might have to call the Goldfish company now
because if they have some secret smile warehouse
where they hide smiling children
then there’s a problem.
— Lucy McConnell
Whether you have kids or not, people always seem to have a definite opinion of middle school-aged children. Personally, I love them. They’ve come far enough in life to understand the bones of existence, yet are ripe with expectations and interpretations, applying them to the day-to-day process of staying alive. It’s an exciting stage in life, ripe with opportunities to create who it is you want to be.
I am always honored to witness this — and I did, on a visit to Santa Lucia Middle School. “There are only a few ‘rules’ in Poetry Club,” says organizer Janet Janszen. “No profanity (‘we don't need to use profanity to be profound!’) or inappropriate themes (which does not mean there aren’t VERY personal subjects covered) and attentive listening and support for fellow students’ work, without judgment or criticism. We (literally) stand by each other as ‘anchors’ for nervous performers.”
Janszen herself is a published poet, photographer, slam poetry contestant and SLMS resource aide.
Dan Hartzell, director of the YMCA Afterschool Academy, which sponsors the group, said the 2-year-old club “has brought refuge and a safe space for exploration. I truly believe that the ‘Rolling Poems’ is not only enriching but therapeutic.”
Indeed, when I spoke with four of the 12 members, both boys and girls, poetry provides the perfect medium for expressing themselves. Eddie Comacho told me, “It’s a way to express feelings that may be difficult otherwise.”
“Yeah, and you can tell stories in a short yet beautiful way, you can share your philosophy,” added Darien Jewel.
Students are from the sixth through eighth grades. Some students are naturally dramatic in their presentations (the emphasis IS on reading it out loud to really be “heard”) and others are just getting used to speaking their truth.
“You can write about anything you want, nobody tells you what to write. I like that about it,” added Lucy McConnell. Marissa Martinez discovered the art when a teacher told her, “Hey, what you’ve just written, those thoughts and words, that’s a poem!” So, when the poetry club came up, she figured she’d give it a shot. She’s still there and convinced her friend, Lucy, to come, too. She is now perhaps their most prolific writer, according to Eddie. He himself fell into poetry by writing one for a contest for school in Atascadero and winning prize for it.
I asked what they liked best about poetry, besides being short and to the point, and Darien told me, “It’s not just stories, it’s escape.”
I’m glad to be along for the ride, reading and listening to them perform — which you can, too. The community is invited to an upcoming performance featuring The Rolling Poems Troupe and The Improvables (the SLMS Afterschool Academy Improv Team) at Cambria’s Allied Arts Center for the Arts (the Old Grammar School) from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
They will share their impressions of the world, whether it be about Chuck Norris, loss, fear, pets, Facebook or even an “Ode to the French Bakery.” Be inspired and encouraged by these young folks. I am!
My favorite time is night
The time of dreams
A time for the unreal
A time to not read epics but be in them
A time for freedom from the laws of reality
A time for a legend to be told
A dragon to be slain
A kingdom to be saved
And friends to be made
This is my favorite time
The time of adventure
A scent blows
A sight comes
A sound appears
It is what I do not wish for
The beast I envied had come for me
To wake me from my slumber
And pain me with reality
The beast was alas ... My brother