Young poets share their original works

Kate Ward

Poet Raisa Tolchinsky, 9, looked out at the packed cafe of alocal Evanston bookstore. But as she prepared to read one of heroriginal poems to the audience, her head dipped down and sheslinked back into her chair.

Then about five of her classmates volunteered to readTolchinsky’s poem for her while the nervous performer stoodnearby.

“Now, that’s what we call teamwork,” said an audience membersitting in the Barnes & Noble Cafe, 1701 Sherman Ave., inEvanston.

Thirty students in kindergarten through fifth grade at DeweyElementary School performed original poems Thursday night in frontof their classmates, parents and bookstore customers.

One by one the children stood behind a podium in front of abackdrop of college guide books and read their poems, centered onsuch diverse topics as springtime, teddy bears, horses, math — andsometimes deeper subjects like death.

Tolchinsky — who said she wore a pair of “lucky earrings”Tuesday night — wrote two compositions for the event, entitled “MyTwin” and “You.” Both deal with feelings of anger and love.

“I thought it was good that we would do this,” Tolchinsky said.”I think everyone should be able to share their poetry.”

The annual event began about seven years ago as the second partof a poetry workshop offered at Dewey, 1551 Wesley Ave. Theworkshop, which is still a program at the school, allows thestudents to write their own poetry and study the work of famouspoets.

Event co-organizer Linda Slavik said her daughter, whoparticipated in the workshop, read one Robert Frost poem andimmediately wrote three poems on her own.

All of the students were supportive of their classmates,clapping after each child’s performance and congratulating them ontheir poetry readings.

“I liked a lot of (the poems),” Tolchinksy said. “I especiallyliked one that was about gum.”

Parents and other audience members who attended the event saidthey were impressed with the literary talents of the elementaryschool students.

“I thought it was inspiring,” said Joan Sherman, the mother of ayoung poet and an adjunct lecturer in Northwestern’s gender studiesdepartment. “I’m impressed by the fluidity of their languageskills.”

The children wrote all different kinds of poetry, includinghaiku and limericks.

Yona Gidalevitz, 10, who read two of her own limericks and alonger poem entitled “Death,” said he thought reading poetry was agreat experience.

“I especially liked when everyone said (I wrote) a really goodpoem,” Gidalevitz said.

Ceil Bouchet, also a co-organizer of the event and mother of oneof the young poets, said the event not only offered an opportunityfor students to display their talents, but also provided a venuefor community members to come together and support each other.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Bouchet said. “It’s great to have thewhole community involved.”

The program is especially meaningful this year because cutsthreaten many extracurricular and creative activities at Evanstonschools, she added. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is in themidst of negotiating cutting their band and language programs inelementary and middle schools.

“It’s great to have extra literary things going on,” Bouchetsaid.