One week before her daughter’s graduation, Elizabeth Marshall left a comment on a post about National Student Poet Michaela Coplen. Tucked into the comment was the birth of a dream, although Elizabeth didn’t know it yet.
I wish I had deep, deep pockets. I’d gift Tania Runyan’s book to each Senior in my daughter’s class—with a note expressing my desire for them to uncover and discover the poetry in their lives as they make their way out into the world.
Tweetspeak Poetry wanted Elizabeth’s wish to be more than a passing sentiment. So we asked our community to help, and a group of people stepped forward to grant one class of 180 students the potential gift of poetry for life. A big thank you to:
Laura Lynn Brown
Richard T Maxson
Within a single week, How to Read a Poem showed up at Waccamaw High School in South Carolina and, with the help of a dedicated English teacher, Dr. Johanna Herndon, a mysterious and inspiring anonymous letter was folded into the books, and the books were presented at graduation practice as if they were the diplomas. Poetry for life was the implicit message.
We hope the graduates will gently hear the invitation of “poetry for life, ” if not now, then over time. At the very least, a loving gift has been given, compliments of a poetry community from all over the nation, to one group of young people, at one very special place and time.
It was wonderful to know that our Waccamaw family was committed to help us not only accomplish our goal of receiving a high school diploma but also to give us tools to go on and have a successful life. —Murielle Miller, graduate, Class of 2014 WHS
Receiving the books at graduation practice was very special to all of us. We thought we were receiving our graduation tickets but it turns out we were receiving these books as well. Coming from a school that loves poetry, the books were meaningful. Knowing that the books were in honor of a classmate who we lost in middle school touched our hearts even more. When we received the books and tickets we hurried back to our seats to see what it was all about. It was a very exciting and sentimental feeling, especially knowing we were graduating the next day. The book is a great reminder to never forget poetry and all that it is about. We’re also very thankful for the donations that were given to make the gift possible, and we’ll never forget the day we received these phenomenal books. —E. Spencer Marshall, graduate, Class of 2014 WHS
When I first heard about Elizabeth’s dream of giving each graduate a book about poetry, I was astounded by the generosity of spirit. But after my daughter shared how every student received the gift of a book in their hands instead of a diploma during graduation practice, the metaphor of passing the passion of poetry to the next generation became real. A random act of kindness was no longer just a thoughtful gift but words that could inspire and possibly determine destiny. —Shelly Miller, parent of a graduate
Thank you so much for your kind spirit and generosity in getting the books to our graduates. What a beautiful gesture. Many students began to look through the books during graduation practice and murmurs of “what is this” and “who is it from” and “it’s kinda cool” reverberated amongst the group. My own daughter read the book on the plane on our way to Europe. She was touched by the sentiment, especially because it was offered in memory of their lost classmate Cameron Ahalt. The book was also a wonderful catalyst for a friendly discussion about poetry between my daughter and me. A special moment for both of us. —Johanna Herndon, English teacher Waccamaw High School
A mystery exists around the poetic futures of these graduates. But I have a strong sense in my mother’s heart that there are more than one or two poets in the group. And that we have not seen or heard the last from Waccamaw High School Class of 2014 and their relationship with the language of poetry. I find it safe to continue dreaming of where this class will go with words. —Elizabeth Marshall, parent of a graduate
Featured photo by McKay Savage, Creative Commons, via Flickr. “Congrats, ” “tassels” and “putting cap on” graduation photos by Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer. Practice graduation and graduation photos by Spencer and Elizabeth Marshall. “Shelly and daughter picture” by H. Miller. “Sarah holding diploma” photo by Laura Hutto. Used with permission.