Friday, February 22, 2008

Jakarta International Middle School

A couple of traveling poets might be a little wary about an assembly at 7:30 AM on Monday morning under any circumstances. The kick off assembly at JIS Middle School followed a long weekend, a holiday to celebrate Chinese New Year. And just as Michael and I had vacationed in Bali for the weekend, many of the students had been off somewhere if not physically, then mentally for five whole days. But as the stage was once again lined with flowers and the members of the string ochestra poised their bows to the tap of the conductor, I felt the room of students settle into quiet attention. Not nap mode -- quiet attention.

First, about the string orchestra. Bravo! I mean, incredible. They were playing Arabian Dreams, by Soon Hee Newbold. (here is a link to an online version They were not playing Home on the Range or Long, Long Ago, mind you. It was beautiful. Haunting, lyrical, like a Rumi poem on horseback. The other piece (I believe) was Vivaldi, but when it comes to classical music, I am definitely NOT smarter than a sixth grader. We were introduced with an original poem by two students and read by the poets. And then Michael and I were both presented with lovely silk scarves, tokens of honor, and instructed in how to wear them. Many thanks to media specialist Kate Hodgson for all her planning and extraordinary efforts to make the week a success.

The rest of the week was great as we got to meet each class twice, one for writing and once for performance. On Thursday night it was Family Poetry Night and we joined Georgia Heard (and her son Leo, who were there visiting the elementary schools) for a night to celebrate poetry.
It happened to be on Valentine's night, and it truly was a heartwarming event. Kids, teachers, and parents wrote love messages (I love your eyes, you are my heart, I love when you lean into my shoulder, etc.) on post-its and we read them as a giant list poem at the end of the evening. The kids lined up to take turns reading each other's notes and continued to write more, all for a chance to come to the mic in the name of LOVE.
Spontaneous poetry.

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