In spring 2019, the Pulitzer Center hosted our second annual Fighting Words Poetry Contest, in which students are invited to enter a poem that engages with urgent global issues and includes lines from our archive of under-reported stories. To prepare students to craft successful entries, we offer a workshop. Complete curriculum is available to teachers online, and education team staff is able to facilitate workshops in select cities.
This year, workshops engaged over 800 students in grades 3-12 in Chicago, Winston-Salem, and Washington D.C. Read on for student poems and photos from each city.
Fighting Words poetry programming kickstarted in Chicago, where education coordinator Hannah Berk led 13 workshops with some 275 students. The young poets approached the workshop from a variety of angles. High school sophomores in a world history class at Farragut Career Academy used poetry to consider the interconnections between history and current events, while media arts students at North Lawndale College Prep paid attention to how poetry and performance can be augmented through audio recording. ELA students at Orr Academy engaged in a new kind of text analysis, and 7th graders at Miles Davis Magnet Academy who regularly study poetry through our friends at the Chicago Poetry Center’s Hands on Stanzas program learned a new writing method. Finally, 9th grade social studies students at Benito Juarez Community Academy discovered unfamiliar global issues and how to amplify them through a series of bilingual workshops. Here's a small sampling of where their explorations led.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools embraced poetry programming as part of NewsArts, an initiative that partners the Pulitzer Center with other arts/educational organizations in the area to emphasize the intersections between the arts and journalism. Nine classes participated at RJ Reynolds High School, West Forsyth High School, and The Arts Based School. Some students were visited in advance by journalist Justin Catanoso, who discussed his urgent reporting on climate change. Students were challenged to translate the passion Catanoso demonstrated for his subject into the poems they wrote, whatever topic they might choose. How can we combine information and art to make people care about global issues? How can we use language in new ways as a tool to transform our realities? The poems below showcase a small sampling of their answers to these questions.
In the District, the Pulitzer Center partnered with two schools to provide workshops for an entire grade. At Washington Yu Ying, 3rd grade ELA and performance arts students combined their areas of study to draft poems and perform them for their classmates. At DC International School, where the 6th grade ELA class was transitioning into a unit focusing on sustainability, students explored curated reporting related to climate change and the environment. They considered how to process anxieties about climate change and other news in a creative, productive way. DCI student Sarah Tumblin was selected as a finalist for the Fighting Words Poetry Contest. You can read her poem here, and find more wonderful work from both schools below.