Poetry should not be feared Daryl Ngee Chinn and Marcella Remund, artists in residence at VMS, work with several sixth-graders on their poetry booklets. Pictured from left are Trisha Spotted Calf, Chinn, Brittany Weydert, Remund, Kayleen Johnston and Charles Odson. An open house, featuring works by the students while Chinn and Remund were at the school, will be held Oct. 19 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at Vermillion Middle School. Chinn will also conduct a writing workshop with Dakota Writing Project Oct. 17 at St. Agnes School. by M. Jill Sundstrom Poetry is nothing to be afraid of.
That�s just part of the lesson that sixth-graders at Vermillion Middle School are learning as Daryl Ngee Chinn and Marcella Remund share their artistry as poets with the South Dakota Arts Council�s Artists-in-Schools program.
The writers will work with the children through Oct. 21.
As the students learn from Chinn and Remund, they are creating books of their own poetry that�s filled with personal feelings, interpretations of sounds and other elements of their senses as they write.
�This is a good age to work with,� Remund said. �They are not afraid to express themselves yet. They still go ?Oooo� when they have an idea or reveal a thought, and there is a certain joy in that.�
�It�s easier to draw out their abilities on paper,� Chinn added. �They are not as reticent as older students are.�
Chinn, who lives in northern California, is a poet/teacher who has worked in arts education programs in Alaska, California, Montana and Nevada. He also has experience in the Arts-in-Corrections program of California.
�I have been working as an artist in residence since 1987,� he said. �But I have been writing much longer than that.�
He has published a book, Soft Parts of the Back, is involved in book making projects and is also working on setting up a letterpress operation to print small editions of artists� books.
Chinn got involved in sharing his skills with students because �there is no better way to work than teach what I love to do,� he said.
Remund�s vocation is writing, she said, �but I do a hundred other things, too.�
In addition to raising a family, she does marketing for a computer company in Sioux Falls, has raised exotic birds, and has taught honors English and creative writing at The University of South Dakota.
�This is my first experience in the Artist-in-Schools program,� she said. �I was interested in doing it because it helps push poetry out of a writer�s head and into real life. There�s something too insulated about poetry on the university level ? it�s more theory. Here with the sixth-graders, the art comes alive.�
Chinn hopes the students in Vermillion will learn how poetry can be both serious and fun.
�I expect them to reach inside themselves to deal with their uncertainties and openness and write about them,� he said.
While he�s here, Chinn also wants the students to see that �there are people who are committed to poetry who are still alive!�
�If we can get to them when they�re young enough, we can teach students that poetry is nothing to be afraid of,� Remund added. �By the time I got to college, I viewed poetry as an awesome, complicated, dead thing that I had to study. It�s my hope that our work here will quickly teach kids that they shouldn�t fear poetry like that.�
�The students will also learn to make the language their own,� Chinn added. �We want to rid them of past cliches, past poor use of the language. We want them to become more conscious in their use of the language.�
The program is sponsored by the sixth-grade students of VMS, with support provided by the South Dakota Arts Council with funds from the state of South Dakota and the National Endowment of the Arts.