Students share poetry works at assembly

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

Columbiana Middle School, in conjunction with the Alabama Writers Forum and the Shelby Art’s Council, presented Language Arts teacher Elizabeth Birdsong’s seventh grade class with printed copies of poetry anthologies they’d completed over the course of the school year last week.

Writing Our Stories is a curriculum used to encourage students to put their feelings into poetry instead of expressing them in more negative ways.

When asked how she gets her students to share so freely, Birdsong said, “The vulnerability is something that just becomes organic. I think when these kids see how easy these poems can be to write, they just open up and let the words come out. They see how the writing can be a tool to wrestle with emotions that they have pinned up inside them.”

Columbiana Middle School students shared poems they wrote during an assembly May 13, during which they received printed copies of poetry anthologies they completed through the Writing Our Stories program. (Contributed)

“I think they discover a way to let out any emotion and to deal with the roller coaster of emotions that come with being a teenager,” she continued. “This is such a tough age and time, especially for seventh graders. Their emotions are changing, their bodies, they change from wanting to please parents to wanting to find approval from peers and trying to find their place among their world. My goal is to show them how to unlock those emotions and express themselves in a way that they haven’t been asked to before, and I think some of them find they are able to combat it and, I hope, feel relief.”

Guests could see the emotional impact of this program first-hand when during the assembly, half a dozen students, some full of emotion, shared their poems with their peers at the microphone.

Marlin Barton from the Alabama Writers Forum is the assistant director of the Writing Our Stories program. He addressed the student body at the assembly with an encouragement for the young poets.

“You’ve spent all spring learning about poetry and writing,” he said. “This makes you a better writer. Take pride in this book. I was 25 years old before my work was in print.”
Bruce Andrews, director of the Shelby Arts Council, raises the funds for this project.

“Imagination is what gives us an edge and makes us human,” he said.

SCAC’s work on this project is what makes it possible and keeps it free for the students and the schools.

The special assembly for the 10th annual distribution of the anthology serendipitously fell on Birdsong’s birthday, but despite that, she humbly ended the program with these words to the students: “You are loved, and we are proud of you.”
Contact the Alabama Writers Forum for a copy of “The Path We Make.”