Our local community college serves a diverse student body, and we have a very large ESL (English as a Second Language) program at the community learning center associated with the college. Having worked as a classified staff member at this college for nearly 19 years, now, I’d always kept my creative life separate and apart from my work environment . . . but earlier this year I decided it was time to integrate them. This decision lead to my participation in a Poetry Reading as part of the community learning center’s 3rd annual “Get Caught Reading” Festival. 
3rd Annual "Get Caught Reading" Festival

3rd Annual "Get Caught Reading" Festival

There were various stations for ESL students, High School Diploma Program Students, and community members to participate in the festival, including areas for practicing pronunciation, performing exercises in using a dictionary, question and answer exercises, reading newspapers and a variety of books, and even making a personal notebook out of 8-1/2 x 11 paper using a pattern familiar to haiku poets.

Attendees make notebooks

I and five other poets who also work at the college were privileged to share our poetry with many of the attending students and community members. Two of the advanced ESL classes also attended the reading. There was standing room only, and all our various forms of poetry were well-received.

A section of the audience

Sergio read his narrative and free verse poems some written in English and others in Spanish. Jane read free verse. I read haiku and a haibun. Bruce performed “spoken word” poetry. Edward read his poetry on diversity and empowerment themes while a translator also read them in Spanish. Jose read his free verse poems.

Bruce performs a poem about his newborn daughter

Naia reads haiku, then a haibun she wrote for her father

Naia and Bruce listening to another poet

The next morning Bruce, Edward and I conducted a second reading. This time I presented a PowerPoint show of haiga, in which the image appeared first then slowly the poem faded in. I wanted the audience to connect with each image first, and then to experience how I’d connected through my poem (haiku, tanka, free verse, cinquain). Bruce performed more of his “spoken word” poetry, and Edward shared more of his empowerment-themed poetry.

Later that day we were delighted to receive an email from one student, Blanca, who attended the Poetry Reading.  She was moved to write her very first poem and wanted to share it with us. WOW!

On Tuesday, November 17th I’ll participate in an open mic reading on the quad along with students and other college employees. This feels right to me!

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