For a few hours on Thursday, April 21, Deltona Elementary School’s media center became a Greenwich Village beatnik coffeehouse. A group of eighty-four students made up of third, fourth and fifth graders did poetry readings. Some were by well-known poets like Robert Frost and Shel Silverstein. Others were not so well-known; some were original poems written by the students.
The Poetry Café is a project that is near and dear to Ms. Elizabeth Marion’s heart. She is the media specialist at Deltona Elementary and has been doing this at various middle and elementary schools throughout the county for the past twenty years.
“The main difference between working with middle schoolers and elementary is that sometimes the middle schoolers get very dark. They’re into the Goth and they tend to do longer poems. Sometimes they do songs. We teach them that a song is actually poetry. Another difference is that the elementary school students tend to do more original poems than published poems.”
Many of the third, fourth and fifth graders are familiar with this event from previous years and have been asking Ms. Marion ever since the beginning of school when they would be having the Poetry Café. The popularity of this program is evident by the fact that 160 students tried out for the poetry reading and only 86 were accepted. They practiced every day and often gave up their lunchtime to practice. Before each reading, a student would play a few beats on the bongos and the audience was instructed to snap their fingers instead of clapping for the performers.
There were five shows during the day. At each one, students came around serving cookies, donuts and beverages. There was also an evening performance called “Pasta and Poetry” for the parents who work. Gator’s Dockside provided the food for that event.
The poems dealt with many subjects−from sports and family to nature and video games. Many dealt with friendship. Some were humorous and some of a more serious nature.
The students recited the poems from memory while the words were displayed on a screen so the audience could follow along. Many of the children got into the spirit of their poems with their attire. Ally Isaac and Cedrick Jackson wore basketball jerseys when reciting a poem about that sport. Miles Caldwell wore a beret reminiscent of the “beatnik” look and Raegan Mack wore a t-shirt with the words “Sister 1” on it when reciting a poem about siblings with her brother, Brayden.
One of the amazing features of the poetry the students chose to read or write was that, rather than the “sing-song” rhyming nature of many poems geared towards children, the poems featured free verse and blank verse. Several of the original poems expressed deep, innermost feelings.
Fifth grader Ace Blake, in speaking of her poem entitled “Regret,” [See insert] stated, “I came up with the poem because sometimes when I’m upset I just write it down.”
Alivia Bain, in her original poem “I’ll Try”, expressed a feeling that many of us have.
I try to open my eyes.
I try to be fashionable.
I try to hurry.
I try to stay calm.
I try to be on time.
I try to work hard.
I try to make my teachers proud.
I try to make my mom and my dad happy.
I try to make friends.
I try to make a difference.
I try to dream.
All we can do is try.
Then there were humorous poems, reminiscent of Silverstein’s. For example this poem, written by Connor Phelps:
“The Fat Cat and the Rat”
There once was a cat maned Skylar
Who had a Brother named Tyler
She was very, very fat
And she wanted to chase a rat
so she grabbed his hat and that was that.
For the last number, the whole group performed “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the Disney animated film “Encanto.” It was a rousing and enjoyable finale to a remarkable display of talent by our local grade school students.