The CMS Poetry Project

By: Aniya Johnson

Even though April is National Poetry month, CMS students wrote and performed poetry in February! Every year, for the past seven years, CMS opens their arms to Aspen Words to run a program where poets come in and conduct workshops with students in the classroom. After this year’s workshops, CMS hosted their 2nd annual CMS Poetry Slam, where any student or teacher could participate and share their poetry!

Poets in the Classroom

From left to right, Mercedez Holtry, Meta Sarmiento, and Yolanda Wisher. All Poet Photos Courtesy of Aspen Words

Poets from all over the country came to CMS language arts classrooms the week of February 10th to February 13th. Mercedez Holtry, Meta Sarmiento, and Yolanda Wisher were the famous poets that led workshops and shared their expertise! They read some of their poems at a kick-off assembly on Tuesday, February 4th to get kids excited about the upcoming workshops and to celebrate spoken word. The following week the poets worked their way through each grade level, inspiring students to write about their personal experiences, challenges, identities, all while incorporating the five senses, Spanish, and even some humor.

My Experience

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Yolanda Wisher with Mrs. Bergin-Foss’ 8th graders, drawing blind self-portraits for writing material

During poetry week our 8th-grade class got to experience writing poetry with Yolanda Wisher. According to Aspen Word’s website, “Wisher was named the inaugural poet laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1999 and the third poet laureate of Philadelphia in 2016.” During my workshop, she shared a poem out of her published poetry book Monk Eats an Afro. The poem was a reflection of what her life was like where she used to live. I got inspired to write poetry even though I’m not that big of a poet myself. I learned that to write poetry you need to lose your mind and not think too hard about your own writing and that you can take any topic, any word, or any phrase and make it into a work of art.

What is a Poetry Slam?

Poetry Slam Host Meta Sarmiento
Nate selecting the perfect color to use in his workshop

Our Poetry Slam this year hosted 26 student-poets and two teacher-poets!

Lui reciting his poem!
8th graders, Yandel Silva and Victor Nava-Ramirez
performing poetry with a beat!
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All brave poets take a bow after the 2nd annual Poetry Slam

After all the workshops our school had our 2nd annual poetry slam! Students were given an opportunity to share their poetry in front of the whole school and show their love for poetry! The slam took place on Thursday, February 12th at the end of the day. Some students were really touched by the poet’s personal stories, inspiring them to create their own works of art over the weekend.

Overall, our school is very thankful for this opportunity to write with published poets and rappers, who happen to be really cool people! This year, our CMS poetry week was a week of inspiration for the students! It taught us that we shouldn’t give up on what we want to do in life and anything is possible with a little bit of hope. Thank you so much to Meta, Mercedez, and Yolanda for inspiring us, students!

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