AYER — In 1996, the Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month to allow “poets around the world to band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.” One of the goals of National Poetry Month is to “make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum.” Julie Tobin, Ayer Page Hilltop fifth grade teacher, has gone above and beyond to help make that goal become a reality.
Even though Tobin is swamped with the typical duties of a teacher responsible for educating 10- and 11-year-olds, she volunteered to run a weekly poetry club after school for any interested fifth graders. For over two months, Tobin worked with 16 student poets. They learned about different poets, and read and dissected their works. They spent a considerable amount of time learning about Langston Hughes who Tobin said, “is arguably one of the best American poets of all time”.
Her 16 lyricists did not spend their whole time looking at other writer’s work, they also put pen to paper and created their own stanzas of poetry. “These kids really dug deep and they found some very meaningful topics to write from their heart about. I am incredibly proud of them,” Tobin said.
As an end celebration to their study of poetry, Tobin and her students arranged a Poetry Cafe to showcase their work to their community. On Tuesday, April 27, the Page Hilltop School’s Cultural Arts Room was transformed into a beatnik cafe, and families gathered to hear the words their children put on paper.
The evening started with Jillian Folger and Kate Blood, 10, giving an overview of the life and times of Langston Hughes. Then groups of students recited poems from poets they had memorized, before turning over the microphone to the poets to perform their original works. Each child read two to three of their own poems in front of a very attentive crowd.
“It was awesome,” fifth grader Liam Noonan said. “I really like poetry and it was cool to write my own and show my family what I had written.”
Page Hilltop Assistant Principal Ellen McCann was very impressed with the poets. “This night was wonderful. It truly broadens their minds of what poetry can be and it helps them express themselves and their feelings,” said McCann. “The poems were profound and really unbelievable!”
“Tonight was not just about meter and line and rhyme,” Tobin said. “It was about the heart of poetry and feeling the poem inside of all of us.”
Noonan read the last poem of the night that thanked the group’s muse, Julie Tobin.
Months in preparation
Leading to this very night
Happiness has been streaming through our veins
Now sadness, sadness is what we feel
Because this wonderful poetry club
Is coming to a sudden halt
Like eating a chocolate bar
This poetry club has been delightful
So we thank you all for coming
And we especially thank Miss Tobin
For being there through all of our ups and downs
And helping us find our inner poet.