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Kimiko Hahn Visits NHP Students in Q&A and Poetry Workshop

By Linda Cheung


In a culmination of weeks of poetry analysis in English classes with students in grades 10, 11 and 12, Queens College professor and poet Kimiko Hahn visited New Hyde Park Memorial on March 21 to speak to students about her poems and the process of writing poetry. 


Before Professor Hahn’s arrival, students received a packet of selected poems written by her, including works such as “A Bowl of Spaghetti,” “Ode to the Whitman line, ‘When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d’” and “Resilience.” Students and teachers collectively analyzed the meaning of each poem, and wrote original poetry inspired by Professor Hahn’s works. 


“Mr. Otton and I spent a lot of time making sure that [the students] were prepared to meet Professor Hahn, so that was the function of the packet,” English teacher Ms. Sansotta said. “We wanted to make sure that everyone was able to come to her with an understanding of who she is and what she’s about, and what she does as a writer. We talked a lot about the students of New Hyde Park, and how Professor Hahn was the perfect poet to bring here because so much of what she does is taking inspiration from other places. She’s taking inspiration from science and from the New York Times and from journals and objects, and she’s making it into art.”


On March 21, 10th, 11th and 12th grade English students gathered in the auditorium to observe a Q&A with Professor Hahn, hosted by two student facilitators. English students submitted a variety of questions directed at Professor Hahn, including questions regarding her sources of inspiration and her writing process, as well as her opinion on the future of creative writing and poetry. 


“In preparing Professor Hahn’s Q+A, it was super exciting to see the several questions numerous classes had for KH, and the similarities between them,” student facilitator Safiya Hamdani said. “After watching interviews with her and seeing her discuss her work, I was anxious yet incredibly excited to meet her myself. Once she came in before the interview,  I was quite nervous meeting someone so interesting and accomplished, until I felt her warm presence.”


Source by Mary Kay Mannle

Seniors Linda Cheung and Safiya Hamdani, who helped to organize the event, sit before their classmates with Kimiko Hahn to inquire about and discuss poetry.


Many English teachers stress the importance of teaching poetry in schools, because some believe the literary form can teach the process of drafting, editing and revising. Others also believe poetry can demonstrate the significance of grammar rules, especially when those conventions are intentionally modified.


“The reason I love teaching students poetry, to both read and create, but on the reading end, it allows you to co-construct,” English department chairperson Mr. Otton said. “You come to a poem with some sense of what it’s about, and yes you could distill a Kimiko Hahn poem down to a couple of multiple choice questions, or an AP Lit question you’ll get. But that’s not it’s intent. It’s intent is to incite something in you. Sometimes people translate that as ‘there’s no wrong answer,’ but that’s not exactly right. What it means is that there are a multitude of correct answers, where as long as your interpretation is supported, valid, thoughtful, personal, it works.”


Additionally, other educators highlight the value of teaching poetry in schools because of society’s rapid technological advancements. With artificial intelligence’s ability to draft prose and poetry, and edit and revise original work, some argue it has become easier for students to outsource the writing process and avoid key aspects of creativity, including critical thinking and analysis. 


“In the age in which we live… everything is created to be streamlined and efficient,” Ms. Sansotta said. “Poetry is and it’s not. Poetry is a concise form of writing, but it takes a lot of effort, and often is a process. I think bringing someone here who makes money from doing this beautiful thing, and who shows this is a job, this is something that you can do, this is something you can engage in, and it brings you joy, you can do it through the generations of your life…We have to take every opportunity to celebrate the arts because I fear it’s disappearance, and we should all be cognizant of the fact that these are things that have to be practiced, and have to be taken seriously, because what if they don’t?”


One way in which New Hyde Park continues to celebrate the creative writing process is through the English department’s poetry workshop series. Over the course of several weeks, a selected group of 15 students will meet three times to draft, collaborate, and analyze poetry written by their peers. The workshop will culminate in the student’s participation in Poetry Night, which is happening on April 18. 


"I have loved our workshops so far," senior Sania Daniyal said. "We are working in a style that is unfamiliar, but I like how creative I can be in creating my form poems. Professor Hahn is incredible! I love how genuine she was in listening to our work and she provided excellent feedback throughout he workshop in a thoughtful yet informative way. She explained the new styles and concepts comprehensively and really took the time to introduce everything to us. The workshop with her was a great way to be immersed in a new form of poetry, and I'm very excited to continue working on my poems during our last workshop session!"


Source by Darsh Mirchandani

Students gather with poet and professor Kimiko Hahn for an interactive poetry workshop.


Ultimately, many believe that learning about poetry and the creative process in schools is vital for students, especially in an age where rapidly advancing technology can export the writing process into an automated function. New Hyde Park continues to support students in their creative writing journey through Professor Hahn’s presentation and the English department’s poetry workshop series.


“I just got back from the Whitman trip,” Mr. Otton said. “You have students that maybe haven’t written a poem in their entire life, and in five minutes they write a ten-line poem, share it in front of the room, get a positive response, and have said something brilliant and personal. When you see the smile that comes across their face... when you see their eyes sparkle a little bit, realizing they have that power within them, that’s just about as good as it could possibly get as a teacher... as a person."

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