Monday, November 3, 2008

Building Community through Correspondence

So we’ve been moving forward with our Poetry Correspondence Program. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve prepared, packaged, and sent more than 150 letters about black poetry to students at our participating high schools. We’ll send 50 more letters to a group of middle school students this week.

Our 16 project affiliates or letter writers discussed Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,” Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask,” and Langston Hughes’s “Negro” and “Still Here” in their first round of correspondences to their recipients. We had previously sent all 200 or so participating grade school students a welcome letter, free volumes of poetry by Langston Hughes, and a reader-response form.

Once we’ve looked over the response forms, we’ll consider more specific ways of tailoring our letters to address the students’ interests. We’ll also aim to expand their knowledge bases by discussing new ideas.

So far I’m learning that a correspondence program focusing on African American poetry can transform a group of ordinary university and grade school students into a linked community of readers and writers. Making the citizens of this poetic community more aware of what they have to gain by being involved with an active network for exchanging ideas about Hughes and other writers will by one of our main goals over the next several months.


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