Third and fourth-graders from Savoy Elementary School wrote a new poetry collection, “Looking Into the Sky!” Cai Rodrigues-Sherley wrote the introduction, which you can read below:
This book is a place where memory, magic, and community come to play. If you are wise enough to open this book beyond the words and endorsements of grown folks, you will find a world where young people tell their stories, and tell them with deep feelings.
This year, the third and fourth-grade students at Savoy Elementary have been grappling with the questions: How do I tell my story? What stories do I want to tell? Who do I want to tell them to? If you have come this far, please know that the students of Savoy want to tell you something about their lives, their friends, dreams, families, and memories, all through the power of poetry. And trust me, they know something about it!
For 18 weeks, students wrote, drew, and discussed their identities, communities, environment, and everyday life. Within these pages, you will find laughter, sadness, anger, fear, joy, and love. A poem is a feeling, a moment in time, and these young authors have created a time capsule of this era of their lives. Together we explored many poetic forms, including odes, haikus, exquisite corpses, and blackout poetry. They learned how to recognize and wield poetic devices like alliteration, simile, rhyme, hyperbole, and personification. They read, enjoyed, and sometimes were bored by the poems of Pablo Neruda, Kwame Alexander, Amy Lowell, Jane Kurtz, Matsuo Basho, Don Eulert, and Jacqueline Woodson.
But it was the work of fellow young authors, the likes of Lismeyri Encarnacion R.M., Diamond Lewis, Zhane Silves, and Daimya Akutekha, that made their eyes light up. These young writers affirmed that their voices too might be heard, and we did our best every week to listen. We may have introduced students to some of the tools of poetry, but those tools were theirs to do with as they saw fit. We encouraged them to return to past works and modeled the possibilities for revision, but choosing how and what they revised was the right and responsibility of each poet. You will see their influence all over this book. They chose the section titles, the color scheme, and what to tell you about themselves in their author bios.
All of this work got done because we believed it could. Somehow, between fire drills, schedule changes, and bats in the library, we found a way to make time for poetry. Every week was an adventure, and by the end, as each student handed in their golden tickets with their finalized poems, a book began to form. But a book was forming all along. Formed by Kyng clicking the next slide, Chloe and Zari handing out pencils, Si’eed reading out loud with his whole chest, onomatopoeia guessing games, Sema’J bringing her own stories into class, original raps and song lyrics, drawings of Mr. Cai on poetry packets, taking on the haiku 5-7-5 challenge and coming out victorious, hallway heart to hearts and so many other small moments. This whole experience has been a poem, with each student contributing an irreplaceable line.
While many of these poems reflect the past, they were written in real-time. Recent football games, holidays, and trips to the zoo inspired poems as much as reminiscing about the birth of siblings and trips to Florida. Poems about experiences as universal as the magic of a movie theater or the chill of winter are interspersed with personal tales of broken arms, beloved books, and barber shops. Some poets imagine worlds beyond their reach or create new ones altogether. Zombie apocalypses and shadow men appear beside birthday parties and grandma’s house. These writers know how to tell a story and make it sing.
To the authors of Savoy, remember this – this may be your first publication, but I hope it will not be your last. We are listening to your song, and looking into your sky. Tell us what to see.
Looking Into the Sky is now available for preorder.
You can buy the book for $17 each at 826DC’s shop, Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company! Your purchase will support all of 826DC’s free youth writing programs, including the Young Authors’ Book Project.
You’re also invited to our book launch party on 6/3/23!
Please join us and activist and poet (and foreword writer!) E. Ethelbert Miller on Saturday, June 3rd, 6 PM to 8 PM at the Politics and Prose bookstore down at The Wharf (70 District Square SW).
If you preorder the book, you can pick up your copy at the event! After this launch, Looking Into the Sky will be available at 826DC’s Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company store, at MahoganyBooks, and at the Politics and Prose location on Connecticut Avenue.