Cultural Council Involves High School Students in Poetry Project

The Northwest Cultural Council has a novel idea to get students involved in writing poetry. It recently coordinated with two area teachers and their high school students to write poems about art pieces by its participating adult gallery artists, exhibited at the Arlington Green Executive Center through Saturday, July 7, at 2101 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.

"It's a great way to get students to not only write poetry, but gain an appreciation for the visual arts," says NWCC Executive Director Kathy Umlauf. Poems by students and some adult poets and artists in NWCC programs are featured next to the artwork at the Center.

Umlauf asked Rob Baker, a poet and English teacher at Barrington High School, to invite students at his school to participate. Baker attends the NWCC ' s Second Saturday Poetry Workshops and was excited about the project. He, in turn, asked Kate Hutchinson an English teacher at Buffalo Grove High School, to get involved. Hutchinson, also a poet and workshop attendee, contacted teachers and students of various schools in District 214. Recently, some of Hutchinson ' s students read their poems at the artists ' meet and greet public reception held at the Center.

Baker, who has taught creative writing for nine years, admits that many students go from hating or not caring about poetry, to loving to read and write it.

"I think many students, and adults for that matter, initially think of poetry as dry pieces written by people a long time ago in language that is not understandable, but they are surprised to read modern poems in lively language about topics they didn't know poetry could delve into," Baker says.

"There are some students out there who enjoy poetry very much, but mostly, when I ask them how much poetry they've read or written, they admit that it's not much," Baker says. "Of course many of them love rap, which is one of the most popular and creative forms of poetry today. Some of them have a lot of rap lyrics memorized and will break out into spontaneous group recitals of them that are fun to witness, and quite a few even like to write rap songs," Baker adds.

Baker and Hutchinson believe that once students see the immense possibilities of poetry, and how it doesn't have to rhyme, a revelation to many of them, they really get involved in it.

Julia Samborski, a sophomore at Barrington High School, chose to write about a piece by Arlington Heights Painter and Sculptor Joseph A. Burlini that is exhibited. It was one in a series of his pieces celebrating Leonardo da Vinci that he calls "Leonardo's Last Sunday."

When Samborksi saw Burlini's piece, she realized many possibilities in writing about it, including one with modern references.

"I realized I could write about this man's last sundae; as in ice cream, his lactose intolerance," Samborski says.

She also realized that she could run with any theme about life and death.

Her poem follows:

Leonard's Last Sunday

by Julia Samborski

He was such an old man, with his flesh nearly dead and cold.

His voice still trailing off with the stories he once told.

He once had more than this, he was once much more than this.

But now he had nothing.

Technically, he had something, but is him telling his stories the only proof that he exists?

And if so, how would he know?

He wouldn't. He couldn't.

You could view this man from his head to his feet,

And even with his age, you could say he was incomplete.

He'd die with remorse and he'd die with regrets,

This knowledge he had rested in not his head, but his chest.

This had been how he lived every day.

Where he experienced life in the same kind of way.

Drowning himself in the cherry red wine and the food upon his tray.

But not today.

Today was his last day, and something in his creaky old bones knew.

The last day for him to see a sky so blue.

This was the end of his chapter,

Before Death became his captor.

So, this was the end of his world.

And on the last day before he'd have to journey away,

Leonard sat in the dining room and ate his last dinner,

A feast so plentiful, it belonged to a sinner.

And as he ate, he began to feel at peace,

On that last Sunday before he felt Death's sweet release.

And as he ate, he remembered his former glory,

Every plot-point and twist inside the narrative of his story.

And as he died, only then did he realize that he knew:

Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.

Besides the participation from Barrington High School, among students involved from Buffalo Grove High School, are:

Frank Adams, Nathan Finkelshteyn, Cat Cabrera, Joe Apicella, Jon Olbur, Sunghyun Hwang, Yasmin Catalan, Monika Koleva, Alyssa Ramos, Cindy Hernandez, Kayla Weede, Ekaterina Savelyev, Amanda Goldfarb, Zori Angelova, Izabella Janik, Irene Bosiy, and Carlie Michalak.

Matthew Byrne from Rolling Meadows High School and Jamie Gordon from Prospect Heights High School are also participating.

The Northwest Cultural Council serves the Northwest corridor, and is a nonprofit organization. It supports and promotes the work of area visual artists and poets, offering a variety of programs including corporate gallery exhibitions, co-sponsored by businesses, convention and visitor's bureaus, libraries, and hospitals; art competitions to stimulate and promote artists; and poetry workshops and readings. NWCC sponsors meet and greet artist receptions, free and open to the public, sponsored by the Law Offices of RF Wittmeyer, Ltd.

For more information about NWCC programs, call 847-382-6922.

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