During my visit to O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, India in April, I gave a presentation on “Poetry in the Public Sphere” to a group of students from professor Nandini Dhar’s literature class. Nandini, herself, is a published poet, and was particularly interested in Poems2go and how to make poetry more accessible to the public in India. During the talk I noticed the young man (he was the only male in the group) smiling slightly, but I couldn’t tell if it was something clever I was saying, or if he was nervously trying to control his reaction to a Get me out of here moment.
Many of the students had questions. It was rewarding to share conversations about poetry with emerging voices from another culture across the globe. The young man was quiet. As I prepared to leave, he approached me, and without a word showed me his phone. It held a poem he had written. I was pleasantly surprised, happy that he was comfortable enough to share it. Turns out he had more poems. I encouraged him to submit to P2g and he did the very next day. The student, Ksanbah Lyngwa, submitted three poems. “Walls” is the poem he showed me that day.
On this same trip, I met Sonam Tsering, the Tibetan student whose journey from his homeland inspired P2g’s Summer Quarterly theme and introduction. He, too, writes poetry. Now, I was determined to provide a forum for these two young men’s voices. I decided to make this quarterly edition a special feature: Student Poetry.
I knew my poet friend and previous P2g contributor, Marjorie Thomsen, was involved with teaching poetry to young students. She was Maine’s Berwick Academy’s poet-in-residence this year. She and Melissa Williams, teacher at Berwick Academy, shared their students’ chapbook. In this edition you’ll read works from eighth and ninth graders, including Belle Greenshileds, Noah Rich, Cole Roenick, and Isabella Gorman. They studied and were inspired by Carl Sandburg’s poetry and wrote their own poignant, soulful poems. It’s both sad and uplifting to read what’s on their minds.
I’m also happy to introduce two more promising voices: Penelope Summerall, a Tufts University undergrad, and Lexy Roberts from Utah State University. Interestingly, also telling, is how Summerall’s “Seeing Yellow” talks of walls as Ksanbah Lyngwa, from India does. Literal or metaphorical, walls create division, and often lead to feelings of isolation, confusion, and pain.
Yet fortunately there is still optimism in youth. In her mind, the world was open, writes Summerall in “Wasp Hives.” They have questions as in Noah Rich’s “Questions,” but they are patient as in Isabella Gorman’s “I Wait.” Lexy Roberts realizes the great task of caring for our world is uncomfortable as she states in ‘A poem about that one time I held a yoga ball above my head thinking of a god tasked with holding the earth.”
After reading these emerging voices and others I am hopeful, as I often am when I attend a graduation. The world is full of bright, sensitive, and empowered young individuals with voices to be heard and with changes to make.
Thank you to all the students who contributed poems to this special feature and to the teachers and professors teaching the power of poetry.
In conclusion, I’d like to share Marjorie Thomsen’s poem about her time spent with the students of Berwick Academy. Students truly are a gift to our future.
Thanks for reading,
The Illumination of You by Marjorie Thomsen
To the students and faculty of Berwick Academy using all the paint chips attached to my bouquet
One of you chose maraschino to describe jello and so
your poem sparked, did a jello-hello jig.
And then there was piccololeap, beachsass, and bookbloom—
more delicious than delicious in the mouth. Merging words
with his, Sandburg’s poem became yours: a cupcake
crowned with red velvet icing.
Speaking of red, no one owns strawberry
sunshine; we can all use the new spring sky, the hue
of whale song. You shared your words
the way flowers spread their plum perfect
purple. Maybe poems are really pieces of sea glass, delicate
beauties to collect, allowing us to reminisce. Let’s put coffee-
colored sand or a school bus in a poem or invent
a fresh season—a brain teaser to tap dance
in the world’s head. Keep walking
your forget-me-not walk to the front of the room, keep being
the whole enchilada, an ultraviolet blossom. To me, you are a coin
splashing in a wishing well, the cotton candy stuck to my heart.