In their own voices

Poet returns to Lawrence to celebrate release of collection featuring budding student writers

Suzy Allen was only in sixth grade when she wrote her poem "Grandfather's Tales." So it came as a shock to the Lawrence High School senior when she found out this year that her work would be published in a poetry compilation.

"I never expected to see my words in print," she says. "It was an honor."

Allen's poem, along with about 25 others written by students from Lawrence schools, appears in Sandy Lyne's new book, "Soft Hay Will Catch You: Poems by Young People." The book features a selection of poems created during Lyne's poetry workshops, which are presented as part of the John F. Kennedy Center's Arts in Education program.

The following poems by Lawrence students are featured in "Soft Hay Will Catch You," a new collection of poems compiled by visiting poet Sandy Lyne:

Grandfather's Tales

By Suzy Allen

As I sit on my grandfather's lap,

I listen to his intriguing tales.

He talks of when he was a warrior

and hunted bison on the flat mesas.

I think he misses those days,

but now he can relive them,

telling stories to his grandchild

A Lonely Day

By Bret Robinson

The dragonfly flies silently

over the still pond,

his face expressionless.

I wonder,

has he ever cried?

The Poem's Way

By Aaron Trent

Poems have a way with me.

They love to tease my brain.

A small nibble is all I get,

for they have gone again

to the deepest, darkest spot

where even I,

the poet of the poem,

cannot reach.

The Magic Touch

By Andrew McKee

I cut through the cold blast of air

to the barn, warm with a herd of cows,

the white snow pounding me

with the blackness of winter.

I tread to the barn

and feed the newborn calves,

feeling their warm, rough tongues over

my bitterly cold hand.

Allen recalls how Lyne, a professional poetry teacher, first taught her to write poems.

"He had a method to teach you to write," Allen says. "We took random groups of words and tried to compose a poem that had substance. It helps you get a base and then branch out."

Lyne came to Lawrence every year for five years starting in 1995. During that time, he visited the classroom of every sixth-grade teacher and worked with hundreds of Lawrence students. Lyne also conducted teacher workshops to help educators incorporate poetry writing into the English curriculum.

"Poetry is an essential part of teaching English," Lyne says. "More than anything, it demonstrates to students they have a unique voice in writing.

"It also validates their personal stories in the great story of life. And it almost always raises self-image and self-esteem."

Working with children is one of Lyne's passions because they can be incredibly profound, he says.

"I like their freshness and originality," Lyne says. "They're open to trying new things, and they're usually surprised to find that they have a poet inside of them."

Lyne will return to Lawrence this week to again impart his passion for poetry to the youth of the Lawrence school district. In addition to visiting schools, Lyne will teach two poetry workshops.

The first, a new workshop titled "Skinny Odes: Poems of Praise and Celebration," will be from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. The workshop is designed for grades five through 12 and was recently presented at the Kennedy Center Arts Center/Schools Partnership meeting in Washington, D.C.

Lyne also will repeat his original poetry workshop, "Writing Poetry; Every Student Can," from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at district headquarters.

To celebrate the release of "Soft Hay Will Catch You," the Lawrence Arts Center will have a public reception and book signing from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the center, 940 N.H.

Lyne said he was excited to return to Lawrence. Of all the places he has been for poetry workshops, Lawrence is one of only two places he has considered living.

"I love the people and the community," he said. "When I left Washington, D.C., I wanted to move to either Lafayette, Louisiana, or Lawrence.

"I ended up in Louisiana, but I would have been just as happy living in Lawrence."


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