Poet Guy Paul Janeczko takes word power to Whiting and Machiasport

Paul Janeczko is a poet, a poet anthologist, a writer, and a collector of poems! Last week, IRW brought Paul to Whiting Village School and Fort O’Brien School in Machiasport to share his love of words and poetry with students in Washington County.

At Whiting, Stephanie Higgins’s Grade 1-4 group had been working on poetry for a few weeks using Paul’s poetry anthology, Firefly July. Grade 5-8 worked with Scott Johnson, their teacher/principal, on “literature through the ages” to prepare for reading Paul’s collection, The Death of a Hat.

The younger grades prepared a Narrative Poetry Collection, as well as a full array of Spring Poems – short poems complemented by beautiful artwork  (fun, colorful, and festive!). They were full of questions, such as: When did you first ever write a poem? What was the first poem you ever wrote?

Paul shared that he first started writing postcards to send away for all of the free stuff companies used to offer, and just writing, sending stuff out to the world, and getting a response inspired him to keep going. He admitted that he didn’t like school but was always a reader (he couldn’t get enough of the Hardy Boys – we had to explain who those characters were!).

Paul encouraged students to hear the rhythm, patterns, and melody of poems, while also reminding them that poems don’t always have to rhyme.

Despite all of the fun and play they had with Paul and poetry – he was very honest with them in saying, “ I will show you (today) what you (all) can do; IF you want to, and IF you practice!”

A lovely sign and lineup of poetry books welcomed Paul and IRW to Fort O’Brien School on May 9th. All students were familiar with the poems in Firefly July, and came with questions about poetry, writing, and Paul’s personal life. Kids always want to know if our author and illustrators have pets, and they giggled to hear about how his dog followed him around everywhere and how he identifies with Indiana Jones.

Students in first grade had written and illustrated their own poems about spring, modeling their project on the book. Students in grades 2-6 had conducted research on Machiasport and wrote Diamantes and Acrostics from their work. One young man orally shared a poem he had written and memorized about Minnesota!

Paul took 7th and 8th graders through a “personal inventory” activity to get them warmed up for writing. “If you had to suddenly leave your home, what one item would you want to retrieve? Why is it valuable to you?”

Another wonderful tour of poetry and words with the Poet Guy – Thank you, Whiting Village School and Fort O’Brien School, and thank you, Paul, for collaborating on such a successful couple of days celebrating poetry and creativity!

For more photos from Whiting Village School, check out this Facebook photo album.

For more photos from Fort O’Brien School in Machiasport, check out this Facebook photo album.

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