For a few hours on Thursday, April 21, Deltona Elementary School’s media center became a Greenwich Village beatnik cafe. A group of eighty-four students made up of third, fourth and fifth graders gave poetry readings. Some were from well-known poets like Robert Frost and Shel Silverstein. Others were not so well known; some were original poems written by the students.
The Poetry Café is a project close to the heart of Mrs. Elizabeth Marion. She is a media specialist at Deltona Elementary and has done so at various elementary and elementary schools around the county for the past twenty years.
“The main difference between working with middle schoolers and elementary people is that sometimes middle schoolers get really dark. They like gothic and they tend to do longer poems. Sometimes they make songs. We teach them that a song is actually poetry. Another difference is that elementary school students tend to do more original poems than published poems.
Many 3rd, 4th and 5th graders know about this event from previous years and have been asking Ms. Marion since the start of school when they would have the Poetry Café. The popularity of this program is evident by the fact that 160 students tried poetry reading and only 86 were accepted. They trained every day and often gave up lunchtime to practice. Before each reading, a student played a few beats on the bongos and the audience had to snap their fingers instead of applauding for the performers.
There were five shows during the day. At each, students came to serve cookies, donuts and drinks. There was also an evening performance called “Pasta and Poetry” for working parents. Gator’s Dockside provided the food for this event.
The poems covered many topics, from sports and family to nature and video games. Many were about friendship. Some were humorous and others more serious.
The students recited the poems from memory while the words were displayed on a screen for the audience to follow. Many children entered the spirit of their poems with their attire. Ally Isaac and Cedrick Jackson wore basketball jerseys while reciting a poem about the sport. Miles Caldwell wore a beret reminiscent of the “beatnik” look and Raegan Mack wore a t-shirt with the words “Sister 1” on it while reciting a poem about siblings with his brother, Brayden.
One of the amazing features of the poetry the students chose to read or write was that, rather than the rhyming “singing” nature of many poems aimed at children, the poems had free verse and blank verse. Several of the original poems expressed deep and most intimate feelings.
Ace Blake, fifth grader, talking about his poem titled “Regret”, [See insert] said, “I made up the poem because sometimes when I’m upset, I write it down.”
Alivia Bain, in her original poem “I’ll Try”, expressed a sentiment that many of us have.
I try to open my eyes.
I try to be fashionable.
I try to hurry.
I try to stay calm.
I try to be on time.
I try to work hard.
I try to make my teachers proud.
I try to make my mom and dad happy.
I try to make friends.
I try to tell the difference.
I try to dream.
All we can do is try.
Then there were humorous poems, reminiscent of those of Silverstein. For example this poem, written by Connor Phelps:
“The Fat Cat and the Rat”
Once upon a time there was a skylar maned cat
Who had a brother named Tyler
She was very, very fat
And she wanted to chase a rat
so she grabbed her hat and that was it.
For the final number, the entire group performed “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the Disney animated movie “Encanto.” It was a lively and enjoyable finale to a remarkable display of talent by our local primary school pupils.