Student Poetry Workshop, Fall 2020

Read student poetry from our recent workshop below.

In the fall of 2020, as New York City schools continued to conduct virtual learning, our SpeakTogether program expanded its range of school partners to help complement existing efforts of educators. Working with administrators and teachers at University Heights High School located in The Bronx, we coordinated a series of writing workshops, virtual student matinees, and livestreamed author visits. The first of these programs featured poet and teacher Jubi Arriola-Headley(right), who led an innovative poetry workshop for over a dozen 9th graders.

Over the course of six weeks, as the pandemic caused further lockdowns and electoral tensions rattled the country with uncertainty, Jubi introduced them to myriad poetic forms and encouraged them to embrace the power of their own voice. Students composed and shared original works of poetry for their teachers and peers, but mostly for themselves. The poems in this showcase reflect a commitment to challenging preconceived notions about what, precisely, constitutes a poem, thanks to Jubi’s tutelage. In his own words:

“I’ve been gratified by how quickly and readily these young folks have taken to writing poetry. Some of the lines and images and moments in these students’ poems have stunned me—have come close to breaking me. Every week these young people are required to share and discuss their work with each other. And every week I have to beg them not to delete or edit their work on the screen in real-time as we’re reading it. I have to reassure them that what we’re not looking for is the perfect poem, that there’s no such thing. That we’re looking for their voice, their unvarnished, authentic voice. That whatever they share is good, and good enough. That there is no wrong, except not to write.”

Read student poetry from our recent workshop below.

Jubi Arriola-Headley is a Black queer poet, storyteller, and first-generation United Statesian who lives with his husband in South Florida and whose work explores themes of manhood, vulnerability, rage, tenderness, and joy. He’s a 2018 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow, holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and his poems have been published with Ambit, Beloit Poetry Journal, Nimrod, Southern Humanities Review, The Nervous Breakdown, and elsewhere. Jubi’s debut collection of poems, original kink, is available now from Sibling Rivalry Press.