I spent every day this week with third graders. Need I say that I'm really really tired? Third graders are adorable, so open to trying new things, so full of imagination. They write amazing poems. But oh my, the energy level. Forget about sitting down. I was on my feet the whole time for each of four one-hour sessions all five days. Three cheers for third grade teachers! Fortunately, this school is one town over so my drive was fast and easy. And I now know my way around the school as this was the fourth year in a row that I've been their poet-in-residence.
We did a new poem each day. Day 1 was a color poem, day 2 a rose poem, day 3 an ekphrastic poem, and day 4 a memory poem. My favorite this year was the ekphrastic poem, my first time trying that with such a young group. Back in January when I met with the teachers for a planning session, they told me that parents had been coming in all year teaching the kids about famous paintings, so they wanted something that would bring art and poetry together.
The timing of the ekphrastic poem could not have been better. The title poem of my forthcoming book, Temptation by Water, is an ekphrastic poem, based on Matisse's The Open Window. So I showed the kids a print of the painting, and we talked about the colors and the details. We talked about how it provokes curiosity. I asked them how they might get into the picture and what they would do once inside. Then I read them my poem, a bit over their heads but it's short and they heard the colors and details and understood how the woman in the poem got into the painting.
Then I told the kids that I'd sent that poem and a few others to my cover artist and how he'd used the poem to stimulate a piece for my book cover—again, art influencing art. My cover is a rendition of Hiroshige's Wave, so yet another example of art influencing art.
I'd found a portfolio of prints Hiroshige's One Hundred Views of Edo and used five of them for the writing. I put them on the board, and we pretended we were in a museum as the kids lined up and walked by and studied each print. Then back to their seats to get the writing underway. Fabulous poems! Full of colors and details, imagination, mystery, and wonder.
This sweet card was presented to me yesterday, signed by each student. And on the other side . . .