From topics as simple as bubbles and pieces of paper to those as in-depth as the town and a variety of personal thoughts, Newtown children and their parents expressed themselves in creative poetic pieces during a workshop-culminating garden party on the scenic backyard grounds of the Dana Holcombe House on Monday evening.
Newtown’s Carol Ann Davis, an author and professor in Fairfield University’s creative writing program; Hawley School fourth grade teacher Lea Attanasio; Fairfield University Dean of Academic Engagement Elizabeth Boquet, PhD; and Fairfield U English major Charlotte Pecquex collaborated to give students and their parents a chance to try their hand at poetry as a creative and therapeutic outlet in the aftermath of 12/14. Newtown students in grades 3–6, and many of their parents, participated in the month-and-half-long, weekly workshop.
On Monday, several of the workshop participants read their work, bringing rounds of applause, laughter, and smiles out of family members and peers sitting on outdoor couches, chairs, and blankets on the ground. The poems were put into a paperback book, In the Yellowy Green Phase of Spring: Poems from Newtown, 2013, published by the Connecticut Writing Project, Fairfield University. Rose Carlson, from Tupelo Press, did the layout and design work for the publication. All of the participants received a copy of their newly published writing. The Connecticut Writing Project, the university’s Office of Service Learning and Humanities Institute, and DonorChoose.com sponsored the initiative.
Student Victoria Lau read one of her pieces, “My Favorite Place in Newtown,” about the Sandy Hook Arcade Center. One line in particular, “Thanks to the owner for charging zero prices,” got a chuckle from the audience.
Carmel Fiordelisci participated along with her 9-year-old daughter, Middle Gate Elementary student Claire. “It teaches them to be proud of their work — their accomplishment,” said Ms Fiordelisci, adding that the workshop served as a fun-filled girls’ night out with her daughter.
Claire said the writing workshops taught everybody to look at subject matters in a different way. One of the topics the attendees were asked to write about was bubbles. “You have to dig deeper to figure out what a bubble really is,” Claire explains. “It has lots of different colors and it reflects in the sun.”
“It was just a really transformative experience for me as a teacher,” Ms Davis said. “They just really opened up and were willing to take risks.”
The children and parents alike did some of their own work, and also brought their thoughts together in a collaborative poem to bring even more of a community feel to the sessions.
Attendees of the workshop studied poetic structure and ideas and experimented with the concepts they learned about.
Elliot Lurie wrote “False Apology” after learning about unapologetic apologies as a style of poetry. His poem reads: “I’m sorry I snuck into your room. And took your Lego plane. But you wouldn’t let me touch it, so I stole it instead. You should have let me play with it, you know!”
The poets also wrote pieces that engage with the five senses in deep observations of objects or people.
In a word choice project, Madison Hintze authored “A Piece of Paper.” His poem reads: “Blank, white, plain, stiff or flimsy the paper sits and waits. Suddenly, words fly in ever direction. Soon the page is no longer white. It is full of pink, blue, and purple drawings and a wonderful story.”
The many pieces about Newtown showed how much the residents care about their hometown, and touched on the impact of the December tragedy.
Valerie Fallon’s poem “Our Town of Newtown” discusses “Our Treadwell Park,” “Our Labor Day Parade,” “Our Halloween,” and “Our Christmas Tree Lighting.” It also covers the events of 12/14. “After a darkness came, so severe it tore our hearts and shattered our pride. We gathered together to mourn side by side. Tears like a river did flow. We will not forget the unbearable pain but our strength and courage will pull us through and we will continue to be this wonderful, caring, enduring town like no other near or far.”
Annika Sun’s piece “My Town, Newtown,” ends with the following four lines: “The people in Newtown are friendly. Everyone is kind to each other. We have been through tough times but we survived. Newtown is strong.”