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Busy winter/spring 2011
Ten years ago I began working professionally as a teaching poet in the schools--and it's been a messy and glorious decade! This work suits me, and I feel I'm truly hitting my stride. This academic year I've worked in the following schools, all in Evanston unless noted:

- Walker Elementary (2nd graders, poetry & art)
- Washington Elementary (2nd graders, English & bilingual)
- Martin Luther King Lab Schools (5th and 6th graders/text and image)
- Lincoln Elementary in Highland Park (4th graders, poetry & art)
- Univ. of Chicago Lab School (1st graders)
- Dewey Elementary (edible garden project with 2nd graders)

I've been making drawing and collaging for quite a few years, but my painting practice is only about three years old. Now, I'm excited to be moving into a great shared studio space in Evanston! At an open house on June 18th, I'll be showing some recent paintings and works on paper. I'm truly psyched to be taking this next move. I'll also be launching a series of Serious Play poetry workshops for adults, starting June 15, presented in the studio space.

Focus on 2nd grade
One niche I'm busy exploring is the lovely world of 2nd grade. After students have learned to write (for the most part) and pre-ISAT, this age is a delight to teach. Finding just enough structure to scaffold their imaginative leaps is challenging pedagogy that keeps me on my toes.

A technique near and dear to my heart is using art-making to turn reluctant writers into eager letter-makers. Each year I find new riffs and refinements; last year it was connecting observational sketching with poetry, this year it was a new visual brainstorming method.

Another little mantra which has helped focus young students is the idea of the three S's: Silly, Serious and Scrumptious. Students are quite able to look at sample poems and determine if the poem is silly or serious, or (my favorite) half-a-half-a. The scrumptious describes word choice. By hitting the notes of emotional depth,word- play and diction--these young poets have a head start on becoming fluent, thoughtful out-of-the-box writers and thinkers!

Project Cabrini Green
Through a connection via my husband (sound artist Shawn Decker), I was able to play a small role in a very profound project. Jan Tichy created a public art installation within the gutted hull of Chicago's Cabrini Green project. Lights flickered in rhythms created by poetry written by area teens who wrote pieces celebrating and lamenting this housing project...even as it was being torn down. I consulted on the phone with Efrat Appel, who led the poetry workshops, and I'm happy to say she was able to use some of my ideas. Do please check out their website!

Project AIM
This was the second year I've worked with Columbia College's Project AIM, a nationally-recognized arts integration program. Project AIM pairs teams of artists (me) and teachers (in this case Ronna Pritikin at Martin Luther King Lab School in Evanston) to develop sophisticated units. This year, we helped students 'Be Artists With Their Words" through a 13-session project in which students explored many facets of their personalities, writing poems and creating artist trading cards, sketches of emotional objects, collages and voice recordings. Check out their work! I also worked with the 6th grade team.

Paladin Award & Publications
In April 2011, I was so honored to be awarded the Paladin Award by Rhino magazine "for extraordinary long-term contribution to the quality of progress of poetry in Illinois." I helped edit this great magazine for ten years and it meant so much to be recognized for that work, and for my teaching practice. Also, one of Rhino's editors, Ralph Hamilton, sang to me at the reception! Check out Rhino here.

Recent publications include

Brute Neighbors: urban nature poetry, prose & photography (2011)

Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets (2010) (collaborator Cecilia Pinto & I contributed an essay to this great anthology)

Where I'll be teaching in 2011-2012

  • Summer 2011: I'll teach Advanced Creative Writing in the Center for Talent Development's Summer Program (Equinox, Session II).
  • The University of Chicago's Graham School Certificate in Creative Writing program. This year marks the fifth year I've taught in this great program for adults.
  • School Residences:
    -King Lab Magnet School (winter & spring): My third year teaching 5th & 6th graders text/image via Project AIM (Columbia College)
    -Your school's name here: Contact me to start talking about next year!