Partnership between school, Chinati Foundation brings student poetry reading

Photo courtesy of Chinati Foundation

MARFA — Marfa ninth graders next Wednesday will share their sometimes funny, sometimes sad original poems.

The reading will happen Wednesday, December 18, at 2:15 p.m. at Marfa High School’s Gregg Auditorium. It’s the culmination of this fall’s Seeing Poetry project — an annual partnership in which Chinati educators ask Marfa High School students to probe the power of poetry.

“The project has become a high school tradition,”  Michael Roch, the museum’s education director, said in an email. “We’re now in our sixth year of Seeing Poetry, which means virtually every student in the high school has participated in the program.”

The annual project starts with a visit to Chinati. The entire ninth grade class, which this year is 24 students, visited the museum’s collection of 270 Carl Andre poems with their teacher, Sabra Laviers. Afterwards, Chinati educators regularly visited with students to help them craft their own poems.

Students — who had free rein with typewriters and found materials — often focus on the appearance of their words on the page. (That tradition is in keeping with Carl Andre, who also created visually interesting poems.) Students help edit each other’s work, and the entire collection is ultimately published in a zine.

Chinati Foundation noted in their email that public speaking, and especially reading vulnerable personal poems, can be hard but stressed that other students were a supportive audience.

“There is a lot of cheering from the students in the audience during the reading,” Roch says. “Some of the poetry is humorous, some of it is pretty obtuse and some of it is emotional. The older kids who’ve done it before know all that.”

Afterwards, students get to take home copies of their publication. The school library and Marfa Public Library also receive copies.

Everyone is invited to attend the reading, which will be followed by an ice cream social.