CityLit Project discovered a new generation of aspiring “Richard Wrights” when Baltimore’s westside youth, poetry, and creativity came together at St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Reservoir Hill. CityLit conducted two sessions in early July, 2009, at St. Francis, a neighborhood center and chapel that was established in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches. The center contacted CityLit to work with the children who are part of the Power Project, an after-school and summer program that centers on education, mentoring, and the arts. The Power Project is just a small component of St. Francis’s ongoing mission to “give people hope for a better tomorrow by providing them with the tools they need for a better today.” Intern Emily Mullin created and delivered a special program introducing the children to haiku.
St. Francis representative Corrine Warren explained that the Power Project is meant to help students in the Baltimore Public School System that are deemed “at-risk” in both academics and life-skills. “We bring in other organizations and nonprofits to work with the students on developing their life-skills through workshops and presentations,” she said.
Mullin decided that the best way to engage children aged 8 to 12 reading at various levels was through haiku because the Japanese form of poetry is simple and fun, yet elegant and refined enough that the children could quickly produce meaningful, powerful poetry.
To help the children better connect with the poetry, Mullin’s presentation centered on the eloquent African-American writer Richard Wright. Wright’s book of poetry, Haiku: This Other World
, was written in the later years of his life, exposing a new, poetic voice for the writer who is better known for his novel Native Son
After the two sessions, the St. Francis Power Project kids transformed into the “Poetic Bandits,” as they dubbed themselves, creating poetry and illustrations that came together to create a small PDF book titled The Dragon House Pizza Parlor
Congratulations to the “Poetic Bandits!”
Click here to download PDF