Talking to students and strangers about my particular brand of bookiness and poetry can sometimes be a little weird at the beginning. It generally starts with an awkward self-deprecating intro, followed by assorted blank stares. Sometimes I’ll toss out a bad joke or two. And then, usually around the moment I pull Agnes Matzerath’s eel poem out of her belly, it all changes. Wonder of wonders! They are alive!
And so it has been the last few weeks as I’ve visited the high schools of Howard County as writer-in-residence for HoCoPoLitSo, an absolutely wonderful organization that brings poetry of all shapes to the residents of that fine county. (I am the luckiest person in the world, by the way.) I’m in the thick of it now, visiting a school or two a week, sharing the poetry love with a new generation. On the whole, the students have been brilliant, asking terrific questions. I’m impressed.
As part of the program, I made a very small edition of a book entitled 11, which contains eleven ekphrastic poems and a bit of context about what inspired each one. In typical Jenny style, they’re all slightly different, with the stresses and pulls of reinforced brown paper bag, a bright long stitch down the spine and 11 random holes in the cover. Each school will get one to file away in the media center…how cool is that? More importantly, though, I hope to help the students realize that 1) poems can come from just about anywhere and look however they choose, and 2) their inspirations/stories/voices are just as valid as anybody else’s. Either it’ll work…or they’ll come away thinking I’m nuts. We shall see.
Below: making hundreds of holes.