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Poetry helps Choctaw students express emotion

Choctaw High School students wrote poems on the sidewalk with chalk during Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday.
BY PETER WRIGHT Published: April 28, 2012

Ninety freshmen put their voices on the pavement Thursday at Choctaw High School. Using chalk, they wrote verses of their favorite poems, including some originals, in a busy courtyard.

English teacher Dustin Johnson had heard about Poem in Your Pocket Day, a social media effort to carry a favorite poem on Thursday and share it.

Johnson teaches a unit on mythology, and his students read a Shakespeare play or two every year. But when he teaches poetry, he sees a different side of them.

“I had a student really just grab hold of the poems and use it to really get a sense of himself,” he said.

Something about the structure of a poem helps his teens express themselves, Johnson said.

“In a way it gives them a voice that, perhaps, they haven't shared before,” he said.

On Thursday, Johnson said, he saw a lot of poems about friendship, dreams and love. There were some that dealt with the value of life itself and others that explored darker themes such as death and violence.

“Through poetry they can really express some of the hardships, some of the trials and some of the goals that they experience in life,” Johnson said.

One poem argued, “Friends last a long time / But best friends last forever / Friends may backstab you / But best friends never.”

Nearby was a poem titled “Mom” with stanzas speaking of a broken relationship between a mother and daughter.

On the other side of the courtyard, Cheyenne Bennett brought a poem with her in honor of her mother.

“Me and my mom have grown really, really close over the past couple years ... and I felt like I wanted to express that,” Bennett said.

She framed the teal letters of “My Angel” by Breana Greathouse with the outline of a stream, stringing the words along a puddle of water from a nearby air-conditioning unit. Some words, like “good,” “intelligent” and “mother,” were written in a pale orange. Her favorite lines were underlined.

“My angel is a woman who walks upon the earth / she shows me my potential and all that I am worth,” the poem states.

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