Sunday was a big day for 8-year-old Breanna Kelley of Vancouver: It marked her public debut as a poet.
The soon-to-be fourth-grader at Riverview Elementary School strode up to a microphone in the morning at the Vancouver Farmers Market and recited a poem about a certain, school-preventing weather event:
We are freezing cold and are very icy and light.
We make you feel way beyond jubilant.
We are millions of tiny balls of frozen rain with a white coat.
If You Go
• What: Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic night, open to poets of all ages.
• When: 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.
• Where: Angst Gallery and Niche Wine Bar, 1015 Main St., Vancouver.
• More information: printedmattervancouver.com
We cover the ground with a humongous white blanket.
We sound like a peaceful warning.
We are snow.
She proudly walked back to her family amid a round of applause, but her poem didn’t stop at the farmers market. It will be displayed inside C-Tran buses for the next several months along with the poetry by a handful of other elementary, middle and high school students as part of the transportation service’s Poetry Moves project.
For bus riders who may find their commute mundane or routine, glancing up to see a child’s poetry could brighten that trip, C-Tran spokeswoman Chris Selk said.
C-Tran, Lamar Transit Advertising, Arts of Clark County and local Poet Laureate Christopher Luna helped launch the second phase of Poetry Moves. The first phase posted poems by general community members inside buses. Those poems were displayed during the first part of this year; the student poems will be displayed through the end of the year.
Karen Madsen, chair of Arts of Clark County, said that sometimes riding public transportation can be a meditative experience and a great time to reflect on a poem. “Poetry is so essential to human life. It’s the song of the gods,” she said.
Love, fear, family — the young poets didn’t shy away from sharing their feelings about complex subjects.
On love, one high schooler read, “Love will find you when you learn to love yourself,” while another recited: “Beautiful in mind, body, and spirit, wholly innocent as the sun. And she is mine, and I am hers.”
On fear, one poet wrote:
Fear is quicksand
it holds you captive,
threatens to drag you down.
If you hold on to other people
you can pull yourself out.
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Hengstler’s poem was about ego:
My eyes are the ocean
My breath carries the wind
My palm holds the word
My essence is the light
The poem reflects how people sometimes think of themselves, Hengstler said. “It just kind of came to me, I guess,” he said.
Sunday marked his first public poetry reading, too.
“I was nervous, but it wasn’t long, so it wasn’t like I was tortured up there,” he said after his reading.
All of the students whose poetry is featured on C-Tran buses were part of Luna’s Poets in the Schools program, which was made possible with money from Arts of Clark County. The money provided supplies and four local poets to guest teach at six schools in the county, reaching about 250 students, C-Tran said in a press release. When the poets were done teaching the students, the kids got to submit their poems for consideration by Poetry Moves.
“It was really difficult to choose” which poems would make the cut, one of the four poetry teachers, Morgan Hutchinson, said.
Hutchinson said that as students learn communication skills, poetry can help them express themselves. She added that poetry helped her do that when she was a kid.
“I think it’s really important for them to have that outlet,” she said.
After 8-year-old Breanna and her family toured a nearby C-Tran bus where her poem was displayed, Hutchinson stopped the girl for an encouraging chat.
“I’m so proud of you. Are you going to keep writing poetry?” Hutchinson asked.
“Yes,” Breanna replied. The girl’s family remarked on how much she had looked forward to reading her poem Sunday.
“Awesome,” Hutchinson said, and she invited Breanna to upcoming, all-ages open mic. “Your poem was really incredible. Don’t stop now.”
Each student went home with a bus advertising card with their poem on it.
Hengstler said the whole concept of putting poetry inside buses is “pretty cool.”
“It makes people think and maybe get more interested in poetry,” he said.