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“And since I’m the one writing it . . .”

After Saturday’s orientation, Monday evening was the first official joint meeting of Writers in Baltimore Schools high school students and Johns Hopkins University undergrads collaborating on the  Community-Based Learning course “Poetry & Social Justice.” The young writers brainstormed potential questions and then paired up to interview each other and write author bios to share with the whole group.

What’s your name? What are your hobbies? What’s your biggest fear? What are your aspirations? Why do you write poetry? What do you like most about Baltimore? What would you change about Baltimore?

We heard about fear of total darkness and fear of losing a loved one. We were introduced to a high school student who speaks four languages and a college student who doesn’t want to lose her second language to English entirely. We heard about beloved siblings, favorite movies, and mixed reviews of the TV show Empire. We heard about Baltimore as an interesting, diverse, artistic city where the people are “real.” We also heard about Baltimore as a city of class divides, economic inequality, and police brutality.

At the end of our time together, we encouraged participants to consider what makes them them that wasn’t included in their bios. What part of themselves and their identities could be more fully explored or expressed in poetry, as opposed to conversation? Hopefully, some of the thinking and writing that comes out of those expanded testaments to identity and lives lived will make its way onto the class blog, “Poetry and Power.”

For now, I leave you with a new poem by John Murillo from the February 2016 issue of PoetryI share it here because it’s a poem that speaks to a “you,” the reader-as-potential-conversationalist-or-interviewer, but it shares stories and images that could perhaps only have come together in poetry: frantic sparrows, a blood-red Corolla, a god with a lower case “g,” the year 1997, a daughter’s drawings, a car thief shot, two grappling men, the year 1977, domestic violence, a family outing to the park, copulating swans.

Check out Murillo’s “Upon Reading That Eric Dolphy Transcribed Even the Calls of Certain Species of Birds” in its entirety.

And if you’re not familiar with Eric Dolphy, listen to or read this NPR piece on the 1964 album “Out to Lunch.” Then check out this WNYC piece on the 2014 festival in Montclair, NJ where “[S]everal works by the late seminal jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy [made] their premiere 50 years after his death.” Perhaps some things can only be expressed in poetry, and perhaps other things can only be expressed in music. I hope your day includes both.