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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Most Unusual Feedback

     Reports from my beta readers are still rolling in and I am pleased to report that the feedback is by far mostly positive and encouraging. I gave a talk about the book this week and three people stepped forward to volunteer to be beta readers without being asked. They are just that interested in the story!
     Below is beta reader feedback that I think is most unusual. A poem! It was written by the current Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire (where much of my novel takes place), Katherine Leigh. She has left it untitled and says it is dedicated to me, and to George Washington.

We have made colossal mistakes in structuring
The world, with no respect for the obvious,
That all is here to be shared, not taken by force.
No brilliant idea for commerce is greater than kindness.
No amount of money makes up for lost integrity.
How do we forgive ourselves the crime of slavery?
Transform our emotions to a prism of empathy
Released from a prison of cultivated ignorance?

How did Washington, born to a culture depending on slavery,
See the totality of its harm, while others thought necessity?
What helps our brains notice greater truths over daily
Habitual falsities reflected by common greedy ways?
Why do the masses of abused not trample their abusers?
Is it the shock of witnessed cruelty that prevents them?
Those that flee are condemned, hunted, their families tortured.
Like stressed animals who know not which road to take,
Though glutted on their slave-supported lifestyles,
The public was lead by the General, by their President,
To perceive by degrees what is fair and constitutional,
To re-examine a set of beliefs hollow and convenient
For justifying an otherwise obvious crime against humanity.
To accept the equality of people whose skin colors alone
Made up their diversity. Washington was popular,
He was careful. He was most advanced in his thinking.
He was elected?, appointed, pleaded with to accept leadership.
He knew the burden of far-sightedness and took responsibility.

Even now, have we learned to honor mental diversity,
In ourselves and in others, that which makes us
Different can make us whole? Can we identify and be the full
Extent of our inborn uniqueness, admire skin color,
Emulate race and culture, acquire exposure to ideas that differ
From our own, find ways to blend? It’s a good solid mandate,

And, apparently one requiring championship that has no end.

Kate Leigh, all rights reserved.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Check out this vimeo poem!

      I was honored to receive the Esther Buffler Poetry-In-Schools Fellowship from the Portsmouth (NH) Poet Laureate Program for 2015. I worked with four classes at the high school working with English teacher Ms. Laura LaVallee.
      At my first visit I introduced the students to Esther's work, and some of my own. I then shared a selection of digital poems. Again the work of others and one of my own. We did a brief writing exercise and talked about how the poems we were reading together could be digitized to spark their creative thinking. I left them with the challenge of creating an original digital poem using a poem of their own or another that they identified with. They were given complete creative freedom to craft digital poems using any applications and resources they liked working with cell phones and /or computers. They were told they could work individually or collaborate. I wanted the experience to be as open-ended as possible so as not to limit the possibilities.
     A couple of weeks later I returned, and just as the school year was drawing to a close, we held an "open mic" event where the students shared their creations. As I had anticipated there was a wide variety of work. As I had hoped the students were pushed a bit out of their comfort zones, and in many cases, had tried something new. All had to take a good hard look at a poem and think about the many ways it could be interpreted and what it meant to them. The most popular poem selected was Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. Some of the digital poems were funny and some were serious. Some were personal and some were not. Success was achievable for every student, and some took an opportunity to soar. A few of the students said the assignment was frustrating, but many said they enjoyed trying it. Ms. LaVallee and I have already begun discussion of what we could do to improve the learning experience if we were to do it again.

 Two students prepare to share their digital                                                                                     poem called Kevin Love / Kevin Hate.

    I would like to thank the PPLP, Ms. LaVallee, and all of her students for the opportunity and for their poems, and I share below the work created by one of the students with her permission. It is titled South and Sagamore, Gravestones.
      Poetry and production by Julia Taylor, age 16.
      Cinematography by Alden Taylor, age 12.