Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York  


 
High School Outreach

Poets Out Loud’s high school outreach fosters an interest in reading, writing, and listening to poetry. Focusing particularly on students from underserved communities, the program is run in collaboration with high schools and with the organization Girls Write Now.

About an hour before each event in the series, our high school participants gather for a workshop on the poets who are going to read, which the poets themselves join for the final 10 minutes. We are able to offer a light dinner of sandwiches as well as the literary fare. The workshops are led, after consultation with the high school teachers, by advanced Fordham graduate students who are experienced teachers and poets themselves. The high school students join the rest of the audience for the reading. (They are eligible for a drawing in which winners receive a free, inscribed book from one of the poets.)

In the final event of the year, 2-3 students from each school or organization participating with us read their work together with a distinguished poet. We encourage friends of the high school students and family members if it’s feasible for them to attend  to come to this reading.


Featured Poems from 2014-2015  Student Poets

 

MAS'SAH 

Bre’Ann Newsome

 

 

I remind myself 

that I began as nothing 

  

more than a wisp of dust 

scraped from the curbs

of Simpson and Bathgate avenue,

  

a solution of saliva, piss, and dirt

that froze into a public

statue, stuck inside every planet

  

not white or blue-blooded

but red, still green, still black

still life-in red, incubated 

  

in the womb of poverty

like my hero, who left 

broken teeth in front of the church on Lenox 

 

uniforms wrinkled and torn 

because every other boy's parents

fought for him to be here.

  

Between the dregs of 163rd and the suppliers 

on the northeast corner of Castle Hill

  

I realize I am a reminder

of every generation's first 

problem, Mother's first 

  

force of habit, the first thing 

the priest cursed in the morning 

 

and the last thing grandmother prayed for 

at night because God knows our parents

needed a blessing, and history  

 

pleaded with him to let their words be one. 

My God, believe me when I say

that I am humble, but Lord I am also aware

  

that I have crossed the streets of new beginnings 

I know that I am the answer

to grandmother's prayers 

a reason for a father's change of heart.

 

But I need to hear it from you—am I still

a bottle of Hennessey, abandoned in a back room

at a house party—or am I clay

  

softened by Jamaican rum,

molded by the force of you

on the corner of 37th and 8th, just 

off the park at 110th

  

Have I made you smile 

by making an inmate laugh or

stroking the wounds of a boy 

 

who knows no tender love?

 Am I not you?

 

made in the image

modeled after your finest creation 

with the preservation of 1000

words  

 

I need you to tell me something

  

sit down here on the stoop 

of 182nd street and look me in the eyes

and God tell me that I am 

 

of value, that I have done something

worth recounting to your angels

even if I am no diamond 

I am the best

spit-shined stone 

 

in Grand Concourse station

  

lend me your strength

because Lord I need to kiss

these cuts and bruises too

  

I'm having trouble reaching

the parts of myself 

that are hidden underneath

a public school uniform 

  

God,  if you cannot touch me 

to feel me, hold me within

the embrace of your breath 

  

I need you                                      

I need you 

Lord, have mercy on these streets 

because I need you

  

In the same way prophet

needs faith 

  

tell me which cross walk to run

across next, which train to take 

in what direction. What scripture 

 

I need to become the roadmap 

to whatever destination

gets me to you.

 

 

 

Untitled Poem

Calayah Heron

 

 

Boys don’t cry, says my mother.

Why are you crying? She asks my brother.

Are you a girl?

Don’t let me see another

tear escape your eye.

Don’t let me hear another

whine from your lips

or else I’ll give you something to really cry about.

 

Boys don’t cry, says my mother.

You’re not a girl, she tells my brother.

Such a normal human reaction

should be kept underneath

a skin that is still yet soft,

but will soon turn harder than

the sobs that rock your being.

 

Boys shouldn't cry, yells my mother.

Only girls cry, she repeated to my brother.

I didn't have another

girl when i had you.

Take that shit off before your father

sees you

using all that shit to cover what’s under

neath you;

the flesh, the skin, the bone, the marrow—

that which can be none other

than

human.

 

You’re human--you’re

 

only human my boy,

 

but you ain't no girl.

 

Boys dont cry.

 

You ain't no girl.

 

Are you gay?

 

 

 

My Conflict

Chenelle Agnew

 


My world and I disagree, therefore this is my conflict.

My dreams are broad but my walls are narrow and I’m cooped up like a convict.

Or more like a school child; because they mean the same thing now.

 A typical schedule from 8-3 and that will only get you a high school degree.

Walk across the stage. Congrats! You are now a statistic.

Triple beam balance, I weigh my options. Damn! I’m conflicted!

I scotch tape my wounds and when I sweat, it just rolls back.

Then I realize I need more so of a Velcro strap to hold my emotions back.

 And in this way, I’m like an umbrella. Yes! It has rained on me.

 Water springs from my pupils, I can barely see.

Hold up my Totes in the sun so that it can be my protection.

Protect. Isn’t that what condoms are supposed to do. Yet there is a daycare on the 1st floor of my school.

Sex! Amongst the teens it seems to be the hot topic.

But maybe I am just a little too myopic.

For whenever they speak of it I want them to stop it.

Because the concept is a little hard for me to grasp, too complicated to depict.

I simply call them my conflicts.

Please! Cease!

I close my eyes, and then open them and just like that another one of us is deceased.

I observe the little black boy with the curious eyes as I travel on my daily commute.

Head cocks to the side as his ears perk at the sound of screaming.“Hands up, Don’t shoot!”

He doesn’t understand what it means now.

Fast forward 20 years it could then be his face in the ground.

Oh no! But he looks like a good boy, but so was Mike Brown.

And we all heard when Eric said he couldn’t breathe but Cops didn’t hear a sound.

Throwing us down the drain like the water after you boil pasta

Prosthetic hands reach out to help us but they are just imposters.

Back and forth we play judicial tag. Oh no not another label?

They tag us like we are cows becoming their beef.

Because, we are held captive, when will the minorities be released?

Hit and miss like darts. When will the points stick?

 Ticking off checks as I go down the list of my conflicts.

The irony,

When teachers are forced to lie to me; saying that test determine my destiny.

Scold me because my brain doesn’t process Trigonometry.

Ten years later those lessons and my job are far from correlated.

Yet I have to sit 45 minutes a day to find an “x” to your equation.

An equation that I may never solve.

A disdain for those numbers may never dissolve.

And the irony,

That school has the audacity to advocate equality, yet, the students segregate naturally.

Where do I fit in?

And then it clicks that when I walk into the lunchroom I don’t belong to a clique.

Maybe I’m described as “other” because my heart and mind doesn’t choose friends by color. 

The crowd will part like the red sea, but where do I fit.

I just walk down the center because this is one of my classified conflicts.

 

 

 

Genetically Modified You

Sally Ferris

 

 

buried

by creators of your legacy

teachers and storytellers

their words the soil

accumulating

sealing your place in the ground

fresh earth the perfect place to plant seeds

for a genetically modified

you

 

harvested and fed to us

by the guardians of virtue

we bit into the fruit

needing your sweet nectar

offended

as an unfamiliar taste introduced itself

making a travesty of our cravings

failing to replace the authentic, forbidden taste of

you

 

 

 

I Do Not Miss You

Sally Ferris

 

I do not miss you

 

I miss your company

 

I do not miss your gnarled, overgrown feet

 

I miss how they used to walk in perfect synchronization with mine

 

Across Bleeker Street and St. Mark’s Place

 

In the shoes that I picked out

 

 

I do not miss your angular, branchlike legs

 

I miss the portable chair they served as

 

When there was bird poop on the park bench

 

Too many of our friends in your mother’s car

 

Cold rain on the Cape Cod sand

 

 

I do not miss your small, pouting stomach

 

I miss the food I filled it with those first two months

 

Chocolate pudding from our favorite bakery

 

Grilled cheese from the local café

 

Homemade Snickers bars from my very own oven

 

 

I do not miss your smoldering, concave chest

I miss having a home inside it

 

Where your heart was my neighbor

 

But now it seems we’ve both been evicted

 

 

I do not miss your pencil arms

 

I miss having them around my waist

 

A force field against the Jimi Hendrix records

 

Spinning our relationship

 

Twenty two minutes at a time

 

 

I do not miss your full, fast-moving lips

I miss having them express my opinions

 

Tell my stories

 

Order my dinner

 

I write poetry now that you’re gone

 

 

I do not miss your long, sharp nose

 

I miss the way the tip bounced as you spoke

 

I laughed about it

 

When you would mock my opinions

 

 

I do not miss your black-diamond studded ears

I miss the compliments I filled them with

 

That you did not deserve

 

Appreciate

 

Or return

  

 

I do not miss your swimming pool eyes

 

I miss how you let me splash around in the deep end

 

To keep me cool in our restless summers

 

 

I do not miss your shaggy, aromatic hair

 

I miss feeling it beat against my neck

 

Slicing through the sticky air of the Brooklyn music scene

 

To the stark snap of a garage-rock snare drum

 

 

I do not miss your oily skin

 

I miss the concern you showed for mine

 

Do you have sunblock on?

 

Is that a high enough SPF?

 

You are so pale.

 

 

I do not miss your mysterious, misguided mind

 

I miss the memories you corrupted

 

 

I do not miss you

 

I miss your company

 


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