Young Minds are Inspired During Poetry Camp

This summer the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and the Family YMCA at Tarrytown teamed to present two one-week Slam Poetry Camps catered towards literary-minded youths looking to write and perform their own work.

“My goal is to continue to expand our role in the community as a performing arts center,” Vice President of  Marketing and Community Development Barbara Turk said. “The Y has dance and theater, yet had no active writing or poetry workshops (before this summer).”

At the Old Croton Aqueduct in Ossining/Photo: HVWC

At the Old Croton Aqueduct in Ossining/Photo: HVWC

She and HVWC Executive Director Jo Ann Clark worked closely together to reinforce the importance of creative expression in the river town community.

Camp leaders — recent Sarah Lawrence graduate, Keila Marie Torres and Rachel Attias, a rising senior at Skidmore College — gave their young charges access to numerous poetic works.

In July, Attias and Torres instructed a group of 8-to-12 year old poets, guiding them through writing exercises as well as theatrical improv games to keep them on their toes. “We had a close-knit, small group, and the kids were able to bond and build trust” said Torres, “everyone wanted to come back next year.”

A weeklong August workshop for teens themed in bridges and tunnels included reading and discussing works by Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, ee cummings and other modern writers.

First excursion was to the Tarrytown Community Outreach Center, then to Pierson Park to view the construction progress. Additional trips included the Old Croton Aqueduct, the Walkway Over the Hudson (Poughkeepsie Bridge) and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

Viewing the project fr Pierson Park w/Community Relations Specialist Dan Marcy/Photo Andy O'Rourke, NNYB Outreach

Viewing the project fr Pierson Park w/Community Relations Specialist Dan Marcy/Photo Andy O’Rourke, NNYB Outreach

“The campers were more creative [during their travels] than when they were in a static place,” Torres said. Writing stories and poems on the train and outdoors ensured that the experience was authentic, bit different from sitting in a classroom.

“Talking about iconic structures like the Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and the natural environment like the waterway . . . there’s a rich and vast tradition not only in the literary arts, but in the fine arts as well, of celebrating natural and manmade structures,” Clark said.

“The Hudson Valley and the Tappan Zee Bridge have long been an inspiration for local poets, writers and artists. We are very pleased the historic New NY Bridge project is also sparking the interest of a new generation of students whether they are studying poetry, engineering or any other discipline.” — Brian Conybeare, Special Project Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

HVWC invited National Slam poetry competitor Kenaya Massaline A.K.A “Hostage” to spend time with the teens the last day. Massaline demonstrated performance techniques to give them the needed confidence to make their voices heard, and added another dimension to their week.

Clark would like to expand the program to two weeks next summer for a more comprehensive experience and to build a community of young writers.


Given the program’s intense schedule during the year, “for now, except for the camps and a few offerings in our regular programming seasons, the work we do with young people is primarily for our outreach efforts,” she said. “We’re looking to expand that outreach rather than the fee-based programming.”

Just like the bridge art show connected Westchester and Rockland artists, so the project stirs young writers’ creative thought. Get ready for an anthology of TZB and NNYB poems!

“We feel the bridge is a huge opportunity not just to reinvoke that literary history like Walt Whitman, but also to hold up the opportunity for a new generation of young writers to imaginatively exploit that,” Clark added. “It’s the largest part of a major watershed, and we want people writing about it.”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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