2017-04-28

by Kelsey Bagwill, AmeriCorps member serving on the Staples, Inc. team with Curley K-8 School

The eighth grade students at the Curley K-8 have been reading Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. Published in 2002, this book tells the tale of 18 high school students in the Bronx that are all in the same English class with Mr. Ward. When one student turns a writing assignment on the Harlem Renaissance from prose to poetry, it ignites a movement in the class. Mr. Ward creates Open Mike Fridays, and everyone starts sharing poetry. With their poetry, the students are also sharing their lives.  

The middle school ELA teacher at the Curley, Ms. Ferro, has done several projects centered around this book to get students more involved in both writing poetry and creating empathy. One of the students' favorite assignments is to create something called an emulation poem. In an emulation poem, Ms. Ferro takes a poem from Bronx Masquerade, and copies it with important pieces in bold. Each student is to fill in rewrite the poem with the bold pieces changed to fit themselves. Their own story.  

Some of the emulation poems the students have turned in are truly beautiful: 

Bronx Masquerade by Devon Hope 

Emulation poem by Jasmine* 

I woke up this morning 

I woke up at night 

exhausted from hiding 

Trying to find the light 

the me of me 

but what is in me 

so I stand here confiding 

is the moon and stars 

there's more to Devon 

Trying to be happy 

than jumpshot and rim.  

but I always cry 

I'm more than tall 

try to reach the sun 

and lengthy of limb. 

but I forgot that I can't fly 

I dare you to peep 

what is outside of me 

behind these eyes, 

they are lies 

discover the poet 

Yes I can glow 

in tough-guy disguise. 

but please don't call me night 

Don’t call me Jump Shot. 

cuz once I'll be the lights 

My name is Surprise.  

And my name will be bright 

 

Bronx Masquerade by Devon Hope 

Emulation poem by Amanda* 

I woke up this morning 

I woke this morning 

exhausted from hiding 

exhausted from hiding 

the me of me 

the me of me 

so I stand here confiding 

so I stand here confiding 

there's more to Devon 

There's more to Amanda* 

than jumpshot and rim.  

than give not receive

I'm more than tall 

I'm more than small 

and lengthy of limb. 

and thin and kind. 

I dare you to peep 

I dare you to see behind this smile 

behind these eyes, 

stepping in my shoes. 

discover the poet 

Discover the girl, 

in tough-guy disguise. 

in the nice-girl disguise. 

Don’t call me Jump Shot. 

Don’t call me the giver, 

My name is Surprise.  

Cause my name is now receiver. 

 

Bronx Masquerade by Devon Hope 

Emulation poem by Laura* 

I woke up this morning 

I work up this Morning 

exhausted from hiding 

exhausted from Hiding 

the me of me 

The Me of me  

so I stand here confiding 

So I stand here confiding 

there's more to Devon 

There More to Laura* 

than jumpshot and rim.  

Than Rude and disrespectful 

I'm more than tall 

I'm more than Not caring 

and lengthy of limb. 

And lack of Kindness 

I dare you to peep 

I dare you to be 

behind these eyes, 

Behind these eyes,  

discover the poet 

discover my story  

in tough-guy disguise. 

In disrespectful disguise 

Don’t call me Jump Shot. 

Don't call me Rude 

My name is Surprise.  

My name is Pain 

 

Yes, prose and proper pronunciation and punctuation are important. But so is building empathy with the characters in a story, as well as the characters in our lives. Poetry is not necessarily linear and polished. It is free flowing feels, where the only constraints are the ones we put on our own minds. Students lifting some of the literary constraints they may have will help them to recognize other areas where they may be limiting themselves and allow them to think critically, creatively, and relationally as they interact with the world around them. 

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