'It Doesn't Have to Make Sense'

By Story Richard H. Weiss Post-Dispatch Features Editor | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

'It Doesn't Have to Make Sense'


Story Richard H. Weiss Post-Dispatch Features Editor, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


AT THE PLACE once known as Franz Sigel School in the Fox Park neighborhood, you find the typical array of inner city problems that disrupt learning and threaten lives.

Ninety-five percent of the children come from homes so impoverished that the students qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. Most come from single-parent families. Some fifth graders are already wearing gang paraphernalia. And a good percentage struggle with English, their second language.

To deal with all these problems, the St. Louis public school system and a welter of social agencies, universities, foundations and businesses have turned the place into the Sigel Community Education Center. Meaning it's open after hours and on weekends. Meaning that at various times during the week, you might find there physicians, professors, nutritionists, computer experts, social workers, psychologists, business leaders and, uh, poets.

Yeah, poets.

Principal Gerald Arbini is grateful for what all the professionals give to his school, which has until recently ranked at or near the bottom in some meaningful educational categories - test scores, attendance, suspensions and retentions. But the poets send a jolt crackling through the place each Wednesday.

They're dispatched by the venerable non-profit arts and humanities organization, Springboard for Learning. Springboard is best known for sending specialists to classrooms around the metropolitan area to teach about the cultures of other lands - usually one at a time. This phalanx of poets is a first.

Every child writes poetry at Sigel - the learning disabled, the speech impaired, the behavior disordered, even those children who can hardly speak a lick of English. They write verse about peanut shells, about animal crackers, as part of charm bracelets and rainbows. They sing their poems, sign them, chant them, recite them in rap, and dance them.

The works occasionally reflect their worst fears, their anger, their insolence. More often they shimmer with humor, cheek and self-love.

"My face reminds me of my mom," writes third grader Maurice Cables. "My face reminds me of me./ My face reminds me of when I was ten./ My face is so handsome./ I am the king of handsome."

Trends suggest that most of Maurice's classmates won't graduate from high school and that many won't even get to finish the fifth grade before their parents yank them out of this school and neighborhood and take them to another.

So will a poem - whether well wrought or clumsy - help save one of these little lives?

Don't know. But as poetry teacher Alyssa Royse tells her students when they first put pen, pencil or crayon to paper: "It doesn't have to make sense."

And it doesn't have to be grammatical, either. Oh, there are rules to poetry. And the poetry teachers work them in when and where they can. Poems are written in lines and verses, not sentences and paragraphs. Similes are appreciated if not required. Active verbs get you somewhere.

But mostly, the poems encourage these children to mess around with words and their imaginations. Royse is good at this. Dressed in jeans and sandals, sounding more like a hip older sister than a teacher, she bounces around the room.

"Can you picture yourself as a song?" Royse asks a class of fifth graders.

"As an animal?

"As the weather? What kind of weather would you be?"

"Windy and rainy," says one child.

"A tornado," says another.

And still a third: "A rainbow."

"A rainbow? That's great!"

"Where do you think I'm going with this? We're going to write a poem about how you picture yourself. Should we write one as a class?"

One child is staring out the window, but the others are following along and offering lines:

An umbrella on a rainy day

twirling in the wind

"I heard someone say protecting. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'It Doesn't Have to Make Sense'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.