Odes
from Chelsea High

What an exciting year!  In autumn, poems written by five students our first year were published in The Louisville Review:     Mariza Rios, Maria Maldonado, Leticia Ventura, Alysha Santiago, and Hoshang Dadras. Here they are with the journal with their great teachers Jenny Lavigne and Jackie Gagnon:

chsfoto


In spring, I went to Chelsea High for four days, and following our past two years of writing about people and places, we wrote this year about things-- poems in praise to things in our lives: odes.   The students had read Lucille Clifton's "Homage to My Hips" (which you can hear her read at the Academy of American Poets site) and some Keats (like "Ode to a Grecian Urn," one of Ms. Gagnon's faves) and Neruda.  Each class looked closely at one Pablo Neruda Ode: "Ode to a Watermelon," "Ode to My Socks," or "Ode to the Sea." And I gave them a broadside with my "Praise for Tubs" and "Ode to a Pomegranate" (at the bottom of this page.)

After we drafted the poems, the teachers and I read them and suggested revisions. A few weeks later, I taught a lesson on the tradition of the broadside in poetry. The following students created gorgeous broadsides, which we weren't able to reproduce here:

Jessica Bernier,  Jazmin Bones,  Doris Boroje,  Brenda Contreras,  Shabnam Hassan,   Leondra Hawkesworth, Brenda Iraheta,  Amanda Jorge,  Melissa Kelley,  Melissa Macero,  Guilherme Moreira,  Megan Padilla, 
Beatrice Ruiz,  Arlyne Santiago,  Oliver Santos,  Iris Traheta,  Francisco Ventura,  Tam Vu.

Some of my favorite odes from this year's Chelsea High writers are printed and linked below.

This summer, the New England Poetry Club chose Poems by these three Chelsea High School students for honorable mention for the Ruth Berrien Fox award for the best poem by a Massachusetts high school student:

Jacqueline Feregrino (see her poem, "The Alley" in our 2004 page.)
Mark Gomez (see his poem, "Maybe Breath Travels Air" in our 2004 page.)
Kirsten Byrnes (see her poem,  "Ode to My Saxophone," in this section.)

Congratulations to all three who were invited to read at the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge in September. Jacqueline accepted the invitation and gave a very impressive reading of her poem.


ODE  TO  A  MANGO

a group poem written by period "C" after reading Neruda

Like green leaves that change,
they are yellow, red and green.

Peeled, they are a soft orange pillow
and in the mouth, they are an ice cream cake.

Eaten, there is
a cream-colored shell
and we save it a chupar.

The skin lies on the table
moist, like a blown tire
or the tongues of old shoes.

ODE   TO  SHOES    

a group written by period "F" after reading Neruda

Punished by the smell of socks,
the friction on my sole
feels like walking on heaven,
but when I take them off, hell.

They look like caskets, empty ships
and my feet?
They feel unwashed,
naked and free,

while the shoes sit on the corner, feeling lonely.


Click here to read poems by

Phillip Albino,  Atko Alic,  Ada Bariela Avila, Emily Bolaños
Kirsten Byrnes,  Emily Caulfield, Krystal Crespo,  Amanda
Jorge, George Justiniano,  Vanessa Lepe,  Cristina Motto,
David Nguyen,  and Selma Nuhic.
Click here to read poems by

Felicita Peña,  Neilly Phan,  Michael Ramos, Beatrice Rios,
Vilma Rojas,  David Ruiz,  Jenelyn Santos, Emir Skoic
Katerina Tejada,  Xiomara Umana, and Audrey Xavier.

Two Odes and a Translation by Diane Kendig

Praise for Tubs

For old roomy ones, heavy-lipped, bottomed
on claws or pedestals, their cast iron characters

and slopes we mold to in times of grime.

And for the newer ones, wide-shelved for mugs or ducks,

true to the ceiling, walls, floor, square with us—

(not for the great, the hot, the public, not

for the saunas, though not against them)

but for the common ones, overused home ones

wearing in one spot, the lone tubs in dorms

where most bodies choose other means.

Even the cheesy, the thin-skinned motel tubs,

shallow tubs thrown to whales, yet they keep us

afloat for a bath or two.

For their silver fixtures, our toesplay and whirlpool,

their ambielement: rockland and waterworld.

Who give cool fronts and depth to the worries

we leave with them,
 
Praise. Praise for what bath people don’t have to stand for.

Ode to a Pomegranate

After Pablo Neruda

Unpretentious as a potato
or a blushing rutabaga,

your shell,
this plain packing crate

cradles red crystal seeds
in a lemonish peel

as rubies would be shipped
in yellow silksor
rosé drops would be stored

in tan wineskins.

Oda a una Granada

En homenaje a Neruda

Sin pretención como una patata
o una rutabaga rojiza,
su cáscara

esta jaula sencilla
acurruca semillas de crystal rojo

en un pellejo asoleado
como rubíes transportados

en sedas amarillas
o gotas de vino aguardadas

en botas almendradas.

"Ode to a Pomegranate" first appeared in English in Quiz and Quill Magazine, Spring 1972 and in Spanish in Envoy in 1984. Copyright Diane Kendig.
All the poems on the Chelsea High pages are for the purpose of education and remain the property of the authors. Contact this website for permission to publish.