The Poetry Program at MES

For over thirty years Ann Gengarelly has been a poet-in-residence at MES. For the past several years, her  poetry program has focused on Kindergarten- Fourth grade.

Believing in the unique language of poetry to create bridges between their inner

landscapes and the world outside, Ann has witnessed students of all ages work toward a profound understanding of their own nature. In a nurturing, safe environment that stresses “slowing down, ” she believes everyone can find a voice for what lies deep within.

Terry Tempest Williams, in her memoir, When Women Were Birds, writes about the healing nature of voice: What needs to be counted on to have a voice? Courage, Anger, Love.  Something to say; someone to speak to; someone to listen She concludes: In a voiced community we all flourish.

In Ann’s poetry classes students are invited to listen to that part of themselves so often forgotten in their busy lives.  When renown poets are asked what inspires them to write, often the answer is paying attention. Although themes are offered for inspiration, Ann encourages students to notice what is begging for a voice.  As Mary Oliver wrote: Attention is the Beginning of Devotion. For one student it might be the joy of playing soccer, for another, it is the loss of a friend, for yet another it is the connection to a particular tree.

Classes are divided into three separate but interrelated parts.

1)  a beginning circle where a theme is offered and poems are read. Students are sensitized to poetry language through careful  listening to poems written by other students.

2) a quiet hour where students combine art and poetry; sometimes writing on their own; sometimes dictating a poem to a teacher.  Art can lead to a poem; a poem can unfold into art.

3) A final circle where poems are shared; each poet offers the gift of a poem and a gift is offered in return: a specific compliment–—I like when you said…I will always remember…

Having the privilege to listen to students in this “other way,” Ann has seen how the writing and sharing of poetry is healing and transformational.  As one student wrote: On a blank piece of paper I can say what I cannot speak. Ultimately, poetry humanizes all of us.

In the spring all classes take place at The Poetry Studio where “poetry walks” are encouraged: time in nature where attention is offered to the scent of the first lilac; salamanders crawling along the path after a long night of rain.   The frogs in the little pond are a favorite.

Certainly this travel to Ann’s studio (only 5 minutes from school) reveals an aspect of MES that is unique and rare.  To witness a principal who is willing to interrupt her daily schedule to drive students up Piney Brook Way is a testament to the school’s belief not only in poetry but also in an experience that weaves nature outside with our nature inside.