Feature Blog Post by Program Director, Anna Ojascastro Guzon
“…being able to articulate a complex feeling, and having our feelings recognized, lights up our limbic brain and creates an aha moment,” from The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D..
After a few weeks of winter break, we rejoined, with a swift shift back into math and chemistry homework. Surrounded by the quiet work, pencils to paper, fingertips to keyboards, tutors assisting their students, tutors assisting other tutors, students assisting other students, within a wooded haven, beyond the neighborhoods with yard signs, stating, “We Must Stop Killing Each Other,” and “Black Lives Matter,” most seemed to be in good spirits, pleased to be back in a comforting routine.
The image above is a “black-out” poem by a senior in high-school, who came to Marygrove just a week before Christmas. He’s a good student but he claims he doesn’t usually enjoy writing. He also said he was looking forward to being fitted for his cap and gown in the next week. When he completed the assignment, he handed the transformed St. Louis Post Dispatch to me, just as you see it here. The directions were to choose specific words in an article then “black-out” all the other words, in order to create an original piece of writing. Next to the poem is a picture of flames. I asked if I could read the poem to the class and he agreed.
I wait until everyone is paying attention before I or someone else reads. Sometimes the students prefer to read their poems aloud, which we enjoy, because their rhythm and inflections are different from my own, and more fitting to their words. But this time, he asked me to read, so I did my best to speak as if in a crowded poetry reading, in front of more than a hundred attentive faces. After reading, “Constricted,” there were a few gasps and quiet words of praise. One young man spoke in a joking manner, “That almost made me cry, man.” He dried a false tear, and everyone chuckled, but behind the joke was sincerity and respect. The boys might feel it’s not socially acceptable to say they were touched by a poem, but one could perceive that the listeners felt the author’s words. I looked up from the paper and put a squeezed fist on my sternum. After appreciative comments from the tutors and students, we all clapped.
Almost everyone finished the assignment and asked to have their work read aloud. And after every reading the small crowd applauded. Two boys were still working at the end of the session, focused on boxing and blacking-out words. Fifteen minutes after the session was over, I had to ask for their work so they could join the others for dinner. They asked that I save their drafts so they could continue next week.