Poetry for the President

Since March, I've been working with DC students from several high schools, including Duke Ellington, Ballou, Wilson and Bell, in evening poetry workshops at 826DC. A bunch of us have been helping out—Mike Scalise, Adam Pelligrini, and Sally Keith (the last two being actual poets, while Mike and I, both prose writers, were faking it the whole time). And of course program director Mariam Al-Shawaf and 826DC Executive Director Joe Callahan did the thankless behind-the-scenes labor to make it all happen.

The students came to us talented and hard-working, and we just helped them along with workshops on poetic forms, poetic sound, and metaphor (this is the one I'm awkwardly teaching in the photo above), and by giving plenty of exercises and time to generate new material. We even had a guest visit from the amazing Carolyn Forche.

All this culminates today in a workshop at the White House, hosted by the Obamas, where the students will work with the likes of Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Aimee Mann, Jill Scott and several other amazing poets to hone their craft even further. Very, very cool. Congrats to 826DC and especially to the students!