Friday, March 18, 2016

Poetry and Guam

I have spent the last 10 days on the island of Guam and what an experience it has been! This opportunity arose when I attended the International Literacy Association conference in St. Louis last July and one of the members of the audience at my presentation stepped up to help us with our technology, introduced herself, and then afterward, invited me to come to Guam to speak! Thank you, Geri Charfauros!  And thank you, Evangeline Chaco (ILA/IRA chapter President) and Jennifer Berry (author visit coordinator) for ALL your work, time, arrangements, and hospitality!
The leaders of the ILA/IRA chapter of Guam
All told, I have made 22 presentations during this time and it's given me a new appreciation for all you authors and poets who speak in the schools on a regular basis. Whoa, it's exhausting-- and exhilarating! I spoke at the Guam ILA/IRA chapter meeting, led a workshop for teachers, held another workshop for teens at the public library and then spoke at 18 different schools (3 per day) including private (Catholic), public, and even a Montessori preschool. There were K-2 schools, K-5 schools, middle schools, and high schools on the docket. Plus the organizers had arranged for an escort (usually a retired teacher) to shepherd me around each day. (Thank YOU, Rose Castro, Ephraim Ramos, Jane Rayphand, Anne Doi, Sandy Liberty, and Cindy Pruski!) 

What did I find?
 An audience of eager students, kind and respectful, most of them already steeped in poetry! What a treat! They had created huge "welcome" signs and often posted their own poetry on the walls. They welcomed me with a lei (of shells, pods, seeds, flowers or even coral), provided refreshments, presented honorary certificates, and always gave me a lovely gift bag of treats from their schools or the island. As I said many times, I felt like a movie star! 

And their response to my presentations were always enthusiastic and heartfelt. I focused on poetry of course and encouraged them all to visit the 811 sections of their libraries (making all their school librarians very happy) and then led an hour-long performance of selected poems from our Poetry Friday anthologies: The Poetry Friday Anthology for K-5, for Middle School, for Science, and for Celebrations. SO FUN! PFA poets, I can tell you that you are a big hit in Guam! Students loved your poems so much and these in particular were favorites: 

"Underwear Scare" by Terry Webb Harshman-- I started by projecting a giant image of a pair of underwear and invited them all to join in the line, "You're in your underwear," using a giant sign with the words written on it! They loved "Selfie" by Lorie Ann Grover too and we took many selfie photos together, of course!

I HAD to share "St. Patrick's Day" by Esther Hershenhorn-- since it was THIS WEEK-- with everyone chiming in on the word GREEN and "World Water Day" by George Ella Lyon-- since that is NEXT WEEK-- with everyone chiming in on the word WATER when I lifted my water bottle. "Something I Did" and "The Do Kind" by Janet Wong were very powerful and helped students see how thoughtful and quiet a poem could be to get us thinking about how we treat people.

I got them up and moving with the wonderful, energetic poems:
"I Sit on My Bottom" by Michael Salinger and " Let's Go" by Merry Bradshaw and "Recess" by Avis Harley-- they LOVED pointing and jumping and leaning and moving! 

We performed FOOD poems as they said SPAGHETTI when I shared "Ready for Spaghetti" by Carrie Finison and "Waffles Waffles Waffles" by Alan Wolf.

They enjoyed pet poems with "All Worn Out" by Kristy Dempsey and science poems with "Testing My Magnet" by Julie Larios (they loved yelling YES or NO) as well as the fun alliteration of "What is a Foot" by Jane Yolen. 

The preschool kids also loved "Buttons" by Penny Parker Klostermann as we pointed to all the buttons on our clothes and "Baby Tooth" by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater as they showed me their gap-toothed smiles!

The teens were very engaged by "He Was So Little" by David L. Harrison (you could have heard a pin drop) and "The Fear Factor" by Sara Holbrook as they chanted the word "Okay" together as I read the rest of the poem-- as well as "Dracula" by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand where they performed the "Shhhh...." in the poem while I read the rest. 

They were blown away by "The Bully" by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (one student responded, "That's messed up!") and could totally relate to "Who Am I?" by Margarita Engle since we have an island full of Chamorro (native), Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and other islanders all mixed together here. "Future Hoopsters" by Avis Harley surprised them with its acrostic form and "How Romantic Can You Get" by George Ella Lyon made them all smile shyly while "Advice to Rapunzel" by Eileen Spinelli made them grin! And they loved the gross-out factor of "Eviscerate" by Michael Salinger. 

And we filled the room with sound in echo-reading "STOP! Let's Read" by Kristy Dempsey and "How to Love Your Little Corner of the World" by Eileen Spinelli. Plus, we SANG "Sack Lunch" by Charles Waters to the tune of "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat!"

My big finish was leading them in "Photo Op" by Linda Sue Park with the whole audience yelling "FLEAS" as I took their photo with my camera! SO FUN! It was particularly perfect since we nearly always took an organized photo of me and the group at each school, so they were used to getting their pictures taken a lot. Now all the kids all over Guam say "FLEAS" when they get their pictures taken instead of "CHEESE!" Thanks, Linda Sue!

I'm probably forgetting a few other gems, but in one hour, I could only share a handful of poems. And I wanted to show them how much variety of form, feeling, and content they could find in poetry-- something for everyone-- and I hope inspire them to try to write poetry too. It was so lovely to see their responses, hear their questions, get their hugs, and feel this connection through the spoken and written word. What a pleasure and an honor. It was so fun to get to work directly with children and young adults in this way and be reminded of how things are still unfolding for them-- how open they can be-- and how much WE can learn from THEM! 

And did I mention this is a beautiful place? I could post 50 gorgeous sunset photos! ;-)

Now head on over to Robyn's place, Life on the Deckle Edge, for more Poetry Friday goodness!


Amy Ludwig VanDerwater said...

Oh, Sylvia...what a wondrous adventure! For the children AND for you! Thank you for this peek into your Guam-days. I wish I could have been there in the audience, listening and learning and celebrating with you. xx

Liz Steinglass said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing about your wonderful trip! It sounds absolutely thrilling and exhausting. : )

jama said...

Wow, indeed! You are a rock star! (But of course we already knew that.) Thanks so much for the blow-by-blow and all the cool pics :).

Mary Lee said...

What an opportunity of a lifetime...for them AND for you!!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Wonderful to hear about your trip, Sylvia. And what a trip it was! It's lovely that they made you feel so welcome, and even more so to hear they are such huge poetry fans. :D

Charles Waters said...

What a fun-filled, heart happy post! I'm super chuffed that the PFA is going worldwide to such critical acclaim. And I'm going to perform "Sack Lunch" to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" next time I get a chance.

Joan said...

Sylvia, such a fantastic adventure--for you and for your eager audience! Thanks for taking us along with you!

Padma Venkatraman said...

Sounds like such a marvelous adventure! Hope your travels allow us to cross paths again soon - somewhere!

Robyn Hood Black said...

I'm a week late catching up on your adventures, but so thrilled to see this Sylvia Vardell World Poetry Tour continuing! Not surprised the students (and teachers!) rolled out the red carpet for you and loved your presentations. And not surprised they enriched your life, too - how wonderful to know poetry is alive and well in many places. Thanks for sharing!!

Penny Parker Klostermann said...

How exciting! I love that you're sharing poetry in Guam. 22 presentations! It's wonderful that so many students are hearing poetry and being inspired! Thanks for all you do, Sylvia!