Many, many years ago in a community not so far away we started a project called The Young Authors Anthology and invited all middle school students from several districts to submit their creative writing. The GT coordinator from each district had 8 pages in the spiral-bound book to fill with their best student work. The selected authors also attended a day-long retreat at the school forest where they expanded their writing skills in one of several workshops and shared their work at the end of the day.
We began the small group sessions by asking students to turn to their page of the anthology and read their poem or story aloud. And each year it was pretty much the same . . . The first student would shyly say, "I didn't want to submit this, but my teacher made me" or "This isn't very good, but I'll read it anyway" or something equally dismissive. When they finished we'd all applaud and then I'd ask the others for comments or questions. The most confident person would speak up: "I like the way you described that" or "Where'd you get that idea?" or "That reminds me of Emily Dickinson." By the time the third student began reading it was obvious they knew they were in the company of like-minded peers and were safe sharing their personal creative efforts.
Naturally most of the poetry submitted had a typical middle school theme - love. And usually, "I love you; why don't you love me anymore?" But sometimes I was startled by the asynchrony of the young gifted writer's maturity, sensitivity, and passion for the language. Wendy Lewellen Qualls is one of those authors and she's given me permission to share something she wrote in middle school.
Pounding, pounding, pounding
Like a chisel in my head,
The never-ending heartbeat
Of a deity long-dead.
Each little tick and click
Sends a shiver down my spine
From the cruel incessant tocking
Of this pocket watch of mine.
Forever it is captor
And forever we are slaves,
From those toddling from their cradles
To those crawling to their graves.
As long as we're in motion
Then time will be the master
'Cause as fast as you can do it
Someone else can do it faster.