April is National Poetry Month. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than the students at the Grover Washington Middle School. The energy is high in the English classroom of teacher Sheila General. Students are making posters to show off their Japanese-style “haiku” poetry and are eager to share what they have written.
Mark Palmer reads “Cool Star” before his classmate Deminia Marin recites “Kittens.” The Asian poetry style involves writing three lines of verse with five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second line, and a final line of five more syllables. The students’ topics stray from the traditional nature theme, though some do attempt to follow it.
“Traditionally during this month many classes will focus on the usual lyrical poetry and limericks,” said General, who has been a Philadelphia School District teacher for 25 years and has been teaching at Grover Washington since its opening 12 years ago.
“I wanted to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, which is April, but also the fact that May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Since we have many different heritages in this school, I thought using haikus was a way to celebrate poetry this month and then continue the Asian theme into next month,” General said.
So Taquisha Mitchell said her haiku dealt with “Cheetahs” because of her fascination with the larger cats, while Kalid Fisher chose “Wilderness.” Christian Jones and Rahmir Dyson created a collaborative two-verse haiku entitled “Tigers,” since they initially wrote about the same animal, while Darman Johnson wanted his poem to focus on the theme of nature in “March.”
As for General, she was pleased with results of the poetry. The children were mounting their poetry onto posterboards. Their work will line the school’s corridor right alongside interesting themed walls that feature everyone from poet Maya Angelou to activist Cesar Chavez. “The children really brought their different backgrounds to this and I am pleased with the results,” General said.