From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 12, Last Quarter, SMALL KID TIME HAWAII

Introduction: What Can I Say?
                                                                                by Eric Chock


          When I make my visits to the schools, students, teachers, and administrators are somewhat skeptical of me, a long-haired local guy who is supposed to be a poet. It seems that most people have never met a practicing poet, and they don't know what to expect.
          At one school I visited I knew that they expected little, because I was told from the start that “our kids aren't very interested in poetry.” In addition, they gave me their lower achieving levels of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, as if testing my insistence that their reading and writing abilities didn't matter to me.
          As it turned out, the kids were more interested in poetry than many of my other classes, especially when they found out I was sincerely interested in their thoughts and feelings being creatively expressed, no matter how ungrammatical or misspelled the initial drafts might have been. Once they realized it was a game played with the imagination more than with the pencil, poetry became enjoyable. The teachers were duly impressed with students' performances, echoing a comment frequently heard, “So-and-so surprised me, I didn't know he was capable of expressing such ideas and feelings! I didn't know he could write like that!”
          So on my last day I was feeling good as I walked out of the building. As I was about to go through the doorway I heard a man's voice behind me, “Eh STOP! Who're you?”
          I turned around and saw a many with a shirt and tie looking at me. “I'm Eric Chock,” the Poet in the School,” I said, a bit scared by the loud voice. I held my books up so he could see them.
          ”Ohh, ohh . . .” he replied. “I heard about you. They said you were doing good things with our students. They said they were writing some interesting things. I'm the Principal. Pleased to meet you.”
          He shook my hand, and looking at me, he continued. “You know,” he said, “I didn't recognize you cause you have such long hair. I thought only artists had long hair. I didn't know poets could have long hair too.”
          We both broke out laughing. I was flabbergasted and didn't know what to say.
          What I wanted to say was that poets are artists too, like musicians, actors,, dancers, and graphic artists, but instead of painting pictures with paints they use words. Instead of using their bodies or musical instruments to express their thoughts and feelings, they try to make a direct communication from mind to mind, heart to heart, with words.
          And this is what I tell them on the first day.
          The idea that poets' can't have long hair reveals a commonly held prejudice that poets are scholars and intellectuals more that they are artists; that they are esoteric philosophers not interested in varieties of beauty as seen from the human point of view; that few people can really understand poetry.
          The misunderstanding of poets and poetry is being passed on to our children. One of the primary values of arranging classroom visits by practicing poets who reside in the area is to afford students the opportunity to understand for themselves what poets and poetry is really about.

. . .

* * * * *

the lonely one
                                        by William (Lincoln Elementary School)

my brother
is always standing
by himself
it all started
from my sister
and her friends
she did not let him
play with them
so that is why
he is always

* * * * *

To You Folks
                               by Lori-Ann (Nanakuli High School)

You must be the type of person
who really enjoys and understands how
an ugly piece of something could
still look beautiful / try and

* * * * *

From the Front of the Class
                                                                       by Eric Chock

And you, silly fool,
do you realize
you're standing there
with your hands folded,
sneaking a prayer at them
every once in a while
begging for
I don't know whose sake
they'll write a poem
from the heart
of a good local kid
everyone would want
to claim as one
of their own?
Do you really think
they see the prayer
in your eyes
everytime you smile
into theirs, checking
to make sure
they got good
souls in there?
Is the gospel beginning
to come through?
All it needs now
is to be said
as clear
as a clear Hawaiian
day can be.
And then, I think,
everyone who looks
will see
who we all are!

* * * * *

Bio: Back then in 1981, Eric Chock had already taught with Hawaii Poets in the Schools for eight years and was the current coordinator of that project. He'd also served as editor for Talk Story: An Anthology of Hawaii's Local Writers, Hawaii Review, Haku Mele O Hawaii, an anthology of children's poetry, and Bamboo Ridge, The Hawaii Writers' Quarterly, and he'd published his volume of poetry, Ten Thousand Wishes.

Mahalo for reading!

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