“I Want a Picture Poem!”

Spencer with Ken (to his immediate right) and class.
 By Padre Spencer

(Producer's Note: Padre Reece is teaching poetry to girls at Our Little Roses orphanage in San Pedro Sula, Honduras)

We began our week with watching our co-editor, Richard Blanco, deliver his poem, “One Today” before the world at President Barrack Obama’s second inauguration. It was surreal to think this person was coming into our little classroom this year. The girls said: “How old is he?” I said: “Forty four.” They said he looks young. They said he’s handsome. I said, yes, and he’s also going to teach you poems. 

11th and 9th grade classes have begun. As the week has ended I have to say how quick and bright these children are. One boy finished his assignment today rather than wait until Monday, the poem, about Honduras, brought tears right to my eyes. They must be wondering about this old crying gringo in a guaberra shirt.

We had a guest our first week, Kenneth Stewart, an arts consultant from Delray Beach, Florida. Kenneth has come to join our team and begin to execute a huge mural in celebration of the home’s twenty-fifth anniversary. He arrived on Saturday, January 19th and has been speaking with Diana Frade, who founded Our Little Roses, Kevin Perez, the principal of the school, and the students about what they would like on this wall.
The wall is about two stories high by thirty feet wide with two side wings. In some ways it resembles a triptych or an altarpiece. Currently it is a white stage wall that exists under the cancha, a large tin-roofed structure where students play at recess and at night where the girls play soccer. The wall is the first thing visitors see when they are ushered in through the front metal gate and cast their eyes to the back of this place. This mural will illuminate our spectaculo event on December 30th, 2013, where the students will read their poems, dance, and sing. All this we will film. And while most of us, will come and eventually go, the mural will stay on here.

When Kenneth met with my 11th graders, the students were animated about their wishes for the wall. They jumped up and down. One said: “I want a picture poem!” Another said: “Unique.” Another said: “Color.” Another said: “Modern!” Another said: “Graffiti.” All the girls asked him if he could bring cute, young boys as helpers.

In a humorous mix-up, for my first day with the 9th graders I was given last year’s schedule and so arrived to class with only ten minutes to go. This sort of confusion, navigating in two languages and living in Honduras, is not uncommon and is often met with warm laughter at our humanness. So with those ten minutes, I had Kenneth speak to the 9th graders about what they wanted on the wall. He asked if they wanted it to be about the history of their country. They said, emphatically, no. This surprised us.

Their assignment for Monday will be to write a short poem of three sentences, entitled, “My Mural.” They will write this little prose poem in both Spanish and English and hand the poem into me and also send it to Kenneth. They will be studying a short poem by Roberto Sosa this week, called, “The Child.” “The Child” is a prose poem model they will be following. We hope to put some of these examples up on the new book blog: http://olrbook.blogspot.com set to launch on February 1st..

When Kenneth met with Diana he said: “I think the mural needs to have a spiritual context, something uplifting.” Diana agreed. They both agreed the children had to own it, that it had to be theirs. In the classes, they seemed willing to help with paint and scaffolding. Ideas came about the mural displaying empowerment of the female.
The cancha at the rear of the compound:
the wall behind the stage will soon be covered in a mural.
Kenneth will be returning to the US on Saturday for the purpose of organizing the project which hopes to consist of four of five people, headed up by one particular artist and artist assistant. He is researching perspective candidates now. The goal is to return here the last week of May and first week of June to execute the mural.

This mural work will coincide with the end of the school term and the film crew’s return — so many talented American artists shuttling into San Pedro for the purpose of drawing the world’s attention to these incredible, talented, intelligent schoolchildren, all under “one sky” to quote from Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem.