Kids' poems find an audience of 2 million bus riders

March 01, 1994|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

Keisha Miles' poem "No One Seems to Hear Me" has a long way to go -- at least 4 million miles.

Keisha, a seventh-grader at Roland Park Middle School, is one of four young poets whose work has been selected for display inside the Mass Transit Administration's fleet of 850 buses.

Through the Poetry Express program, supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, Keisha can share some of her most private thoughts. "I'm glad people can [see] my poetry and understand the way I think, because I'm really shy and nervous," she says. "Poetry is a way to express myself."

Yesterday, Keisha and middle school students Jared Farley, Stanley Jackson and Elissa Prichep were honored by mass transit and arts council administrators for their winning work, chosen from among 500 poems.

The students, who come from Baltimore City as well as Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, were awarded $50 savings bonds.

Unable to attend, Pulitzer Prize winner and national poet laureate Rita Dove sent a letter to the students.

Paraphrasing Emily Dickinson, she wrote: "Your poems are letters to the world that will be read by people who . . . come from all walks of life, men and women and children who will, when they least expect it . . . be enriched by your words."

The Poetry Express program grew out of the Artists-in-Education poetry workshops, an arts council program that pairs poets with students in weeklong writing seminars throughout the state's public school systems.

Poet Bonni Goldberg, a workshop participant and director of Poetry Express, says it is a way for the public to "see children as whole people with a whole range of emotions and the ability to express themselves in words."

While not a new concept, Poetry Express is the first public poetry project that features the work of youths, Ms. Goldberg says.

The winning poems will appear in rotation, and each will run for at least eight weeks. It is estimated that each poem will travel at least 4 million miles and will be viewed by more than 2 million passengers.

And one of those passengers will be Elissa Prichep's grandmother. "She'll get to see my poetry," says Elissa, a student at Severn River junior high school in Anne Arundel county and author of "Indian Spirit Poem."

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