Brian Schuessler Letter

Eastlake High School
400 228th Ave. N.E.
Sammamish, WA 98074

Auburn, WA

To Whom It May Concern:

Paul Nelson created the best lesson my students have experienced this year. He brought two poets to school who competed in a poetry bout in front of a group of three hundred teenagers here at Eastlake. Afterward Paul, Aundria and David presented a work shop that inspired the students to create their own poetry competition. Three weeks later Paul returned with Andrea to facilitate a bout among twelve students in front of their class mates.

The whole thing was electric. There were no grades to motivate the students, but they listened with intensity and respect to each participant’s poetry. Afterward many students came up to me individually to tell me that the experience had been motivating and inspiring. Several students have shown me poems they wrote last night on their own after the bout.

One of my students, Kellee Captain, talked about how she cried after Brian Byersdorf’s first poem. She said the readings were really fun; in fact, she said she would like to do it every month or at least every quarter. It would motivate her, she said, to write more. Another student, Kevin Radley, said it was cool. He said that it really made you look at different perspectives. Erin Horvath, a senior, said poetry allows you to open up your mind rather than a text book. She said it was intriguing. When I asked my classes, everyone agreed that the whole process had been exciting and worth while. I have not seen my students so enthusiastic all year.

Having Aundria and David read poetry that clearly affected them deeply helped students truly appreciate poetry. Something Advance Placement studies too easily ignores is that poetry is so much more than the identification of metaphor, imagery and point of view. It is creativity inside the awareness of our weaknesses and our dreams. It is the tension between our sense of fate and destiny – it is words taking us beyond words – beyond space and time. My students today understand this now (on a level I can’t describe) because of your work.

If any other teachers are considering contacting Paul Nelson as a way of bringing poetry alive for students, I encourage them to do so. His work is appropriate and it is magical. He made the lesson a great success.

Sincerely yours

Brian Schuessler
Eastlake High School

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