Curated by Suzanne Lummis
In the American Heritage dictionary close-up is defined as: 1. A photograph or a film or television shot in which the
subject is tightly framed and shown at a relatively large scale. 2. An intimate
view or description.
FROM THE GARDEN OF FREE VERSES
(A small sample of poems from the many fine ones
written during the Santa Fe Springs two-week art & poetry camp at Heritage Park
and The Clarke Estate, co-sponsored by Friends of the Junior Arts Center)
connoisseur, I already know what you’re thinking, ‘who wants to read the work
of people who’ve only been studying poetry for four to ten days, especially
considering some of the participants had read little serious poetry before
plunging into art and poetry camp?’
Well let me set you
straight on that point. You won’t find any careless, tossed-off poems from
my group, and no doggerel either. My student poets revise carefully.
Sure, their first drafts aren’t always brilliant – but, heck, whose are?
Like all good poets they start by getting something down on paper, then they
return to it, searching for monotonous repetitions, dull verbs or adjectives,
and predictable phrases, which they then replace with livelier words.
Now, people say
poetry’s a solitary process, but that’s not always the case; sometimes it can be
a collaborative process. (In fact my poets quickly added the word
“collaborative” to their expanding vocabularies.) For example, say the art
camp poets read a James Wright poem, then venture out into the rich environs of
Heritage Park or the Clarke Estate to note everything they see, hear and smell. When they
come back, however, they discover many of their poems include the same
predicable adjective and noun pairing: “beautiful flowers”. I ask them, “Is
“No!” say the
“And why not?”
the group, “poets are supposed to be original!”
And so we write
some of the poems on a big palette and the group brainstorms, helping each other
revise by suggesting more interesting, less expected words. And, believe me, my
poets know what a synonym is and can name a lot of them. Each poet, though,
gets to choose the revisions he/she wants to make, saying, “I like ‘soar’” or “I
want ‘peaches’ to go right here.”
That’s not to say
the student poets don’t evolve most of their best lines all on their
own. The second of the poems below, by Danny Guevara, contains a line some
might imagine came – at least in part – from a professional poet, but it was all
As it happened,
we’d been discussing similes, and many in the group knew that a simile is “a
comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’”. I told them, “That’s true, and there’s
something else about a simile that your teachers might not have told you. A
poetic simile is no ordinary comparison. It involves an imaginative leap.” “Imaginative
leap,” I said, “write that down.”
Then that same day,
when I was helping Danny with his poem, I noticed a particular image. I
suggested to him, “Right here – if you can think of what that sunlight on water
reminds you of, you’ll have a simile”.
He hesitated for
only a moment. Then he made the leap.
- Suzanne Lummis
Many thanks to my assistant Naomi, my comrade in the
arts, Ellie, and all the outstanding emerging poets. I regret that I can
represent here only a few of them. For information about the annual August art
and poetry camp, call Heritage Park: (562) 946-6476.
POETS AGES 7 - 10
(Two or more
participants can create a spine poem, each taking turns adding a word at time.
The only rules are these: 1) the poets must not have decided ahead of time where
the poem is going and, 2) they must wind up with a grammatical sentence. )
Jamie Becker and Levi Gutierrez
UNTITLED SPINE POEM
Billy Collins’ “Looking West”)
I TRAVEL THE WORLD
I start at the
Clarke Estate next to purple,
flowers. I take off
past the bamboo,
over the aquatic center.
Then I hustle over
to Kaiser, where my mom’s
work. I fly
over Las Vegas and
the dummies gambling
their money away.
over North Dakota
and gaze at Mount Rushmore.
Tourists ride jet
skies across the Great Lakes.
I stop at the
splendor of the Statue of Liberty,
then pass over the
Indian tribes, and
red tailed parrots – then
over Beijing and
Mount Fuji. I spot
In Japan I look at
Toyotas and Hondas.
I pass the Pacific
where the sunlight on the water
is like my mom when
Then I rush back to
Santa Fe Springs and
the Clarke Estate,
where I sit
next to the
Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day”)
THE GOLDEN PHEASANT
Do you like your vivid feathers?
Do you have a
Why do you have
stripes on your neck?
What kind of seeds
do you eat?
Where do you like
to go most of the time?
I have two sisters,
one fourteen and one thirteen.
You and me have
something in common.
We both like to run
James Wright’s “Outside Fargo, North Dakota”)
The sharp grass and
surround the peace
The clear, cold
water is smooth
as the cement
The roots of the
rusty leaf fig
rise from the
a tiny fig fell on
POETS AGES 10 – 13
Warm sweet air of
the sycamore tree
Bubbling jets of
into the crystal
by the gentle
The smell of nectar
makes my tongue tingle.
Golden moths hop on
I hear the light
scrape of a sycamore leaf
as it flutters to
following poems we say are “after” Sandra Cisneros because the poets
incorporated the basic structure of “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me”. We
looked at only a section of her long poem.)
the string on my
the stain on my
the extra homework.
You bring out the
Medea in me,
the tossing and
turning all night in me.
You remind me of
licking my teeth
nail polish on my
green. late for school.
warm coke. beets.
jumping. seaweed. frogs.
TO MY MOM
After Sandra Cisneros’ “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me”
You bring out the
music in me,
the jewels in me,
the karate moves in me.
You bring out the
dark red roses in me,
fluttering butterflies in me,
the art in me,
the sparkling sun
the firelight in
Baby blue. Birds
of paradise. Petunias.
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