Jordan Stempleman, an area poet, participated in a poetry workshop last school year for the Turner Troubadours group. (Photo courtesy of Craig Shove)
One student wrote about her mother’s death. Another wrote about family fights at 1 a.m. Another student wrote about the first time running from the cops. Another student wrote about his mother overdosing.
The “I Remember” poetry topic in the Turner Troubadours poetry club at Turner High School brought forth many sad, and some happy, memories from teens. Letting students express their feelings through poetry is part of the purpose of the club, said Marlee Stempleman, a language arts teacher who with Jessica Kendall is a sponsor of the club. Sometimes students have no other outlet to express their emotions, she said.
About 40 high school students, freshmen through seniors, are in the Troubadours, trying to meet about once a month to share poetry they have written, Stempleman said. They are given a topic, such as “I Remember,” and write a poem about the topic.
“A lot of them need that outlet,” Stempleman said. “They enjoy writing creatively, rather than academically. I think it serves as an outlet for them to self-examine.”
The poetry group helps tell the world that the students, despite encountering difficulties in their lives, are good writers who are open-minded, strong and intelligent, according to Stempleman. Despite their differences, the students can work together in a productive, connected group, she said.
Because it’s a club, the students avoid all pressure to perform for a grade, and at the same time, their writing skills improve, she said. Students build relationships and provide support to each other through the group, as well.
“I started it because I love poetry,” Stempleman said. She also likes to continue meeting with many of the students who were in her freshman class. While she doesn’t write poetry herself, her husband is a published poet and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute.
So far, the poetry club that Stempleman started last year has self-published a book of their poems, and one club member has done well at a statewide poetry contest. Jerry Brailler, a club member, was only a freshman last year when he went to the finals of the statewide poetry contest sponsored by the Kansas PTSA. What’s particularly rewarding is that quite a few students in the club want to pursue a degree in creative writing, she said.
The club also had “open mike” events last year where students could read their poems, and guest poets were invited to a workshop.
This year, the club is working on a second book of poetry, but it will be different, according to Stempleman. The Turner students have already submitted poems for the collection. The sponsors this year are asking other Title 1 schools to submit poetry, too. Stempleman said she believes Title 1 students have a connection to poetry that perhaps wouldn’t be found at other schools.
The goal of the book project is to include at least one poem from each state in the country. Three sections in the book would include poems with the theme “I Remember,” as well as six-word memoirs and free verse poems. The book also would have a section in the back that could be used by teachers as a resource, she said.
Stempleman asked other schools that are interested in participating in the project to call her at 913-288-3308 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com .
One of the Turner students’ “I Remember” poems follows:
by Dakota Green
The first day, two long years ago.
Thinking I’m going to hate this class.
Writing entries every night.
Telling my story and hearing so many others.
Coming together as one.
All the tears shed.
Looking forward to 4th hour every day.
Every face in my “family.”
The best year of my life, but at the same time, the worst.
Letters from the people I love.
And most importantly, I will never forget.