Students in Tennyson Middle School’s sixth- through eighth- grades had an opportunity to learn about the power of poetry from the Poet Laureate for the State of Texas, Carmen Tafolla, Ph.D., last Thursday, April 7, 2016, during an assembly in the school’s cafeteria. Tafolla spoke to approximately 250 students during the school’s sixth-period English classes.
Following the assembly, a small group of students met with Tafolla in a workshop setting to further develop their writing and poetry skills. The group of approximately 40 students in sixth- through eighth- grades was composed of students, mostly girls, who were nominated by their English teachers based on their interest or aptitude in poetry.
Tennyson Middle School was one of only 20 Texas public schools selected through a competitive process to be a “Planting Poet Trees School,” a project designed by Dr. Tafolla to help students gain a better understanding of poetry and spark excitement about writing.
As the 2015 State Poet Laureate of Texas, Dr. Tafolla’s job is to introduce the power of poetry throughout the state of Texas. Through her “Poet Trees” initiative, Tafolla’s goal is to bring poetic awareness to schools with a majority of low-income student populations. As one of the 20 schools selected, Tennyson Middle School is receiving a collection books about poetry and creative writing for the school library, valued at more than $200. The donation of books is an added bonus to the gift of Tafolla’s inspirational reading and artistic performance.
In addition, Tennyson Middle School students will have an opportunity to write, revise, polish and submit their own work for possible publication in a statewide anthology of student poetry. This anthology will be published by Wings Press, the oldest independent literary press in the state.
Tafolla is a poet, storyteller, performance artist, motivational speaker, and Associate Professor at UT San Antonio. The author of more than 20 books, her work appears internationally in higher learning textbooks, newspapers, journals and magazines, and elementary school readers. Chosen in 2012 as the first Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, she has presented at more than 300 schools, universities, professional conferences, and community arts centers in her two-year tenure.
Called by Roots author, Alex Haley, a “world-class writer,” Tafolla has received the prestigious Americas Award, presented to her at the Library of Congress in 2010, five International Latino Book Awards, two Tomas Rivera Book Awards, two ALA Notable Books, a Charlotte Zolotow Award, the Art of Peace Award, and has been recognized by the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies for work which “gives voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”