Hi! Claire here with (sadly!) the last Poets on Poets blog post featuring National Student Poet Luisa Banchoff, who represents the Southeast region! This summer, Luisa partnered with the DC branch of Writopia Lab as an assistant instructor. Luisa will be attending Princeton University in the fall.

National Student Poet Luisa Banchoff

National Student Poet Luisa Banchoff

CL: What was the highlight of your year as a National Student Poet?
LB: Honestly, I’d have to say that it’d be an amalgamation of all the amazing and unique people we got to meet, from Andrea Gibson, Terrance Hayes, and Edward Hirsch.

CL: Could you be a wee bit more specific?
LB: Yes, yes, I know. Well, more specifically, my highlight would be my experience at the National Writing Project: Urban Sites Network Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, during National Poetry Month. It was so inspiring to meet teachers and hear them share their experiences and challenges in the classroom. Many teachers shared how they struggled to prepare their students for reading comprehension tests while instilling in them a love of literature. Many of the teachers I met shared a genuine desire to nurture a love of literature over the basic nature of getting a test question correct. It was so clear to me how each of them pass on their passion and enthusiasm to their students…I was just really awed by all the passion and enthusiasm.

The teachers I met continue to do what they love, which is teaching students, because they know that what they’re doing will leave lasting impacts on their students. I guess I was inspired and influenced similarly by the other people I met. It was definitely the people more than the prestige and the exciting events that made this year so memorable and rewarding. All these new people came into my life this year, and I can’t think of how it could’ve been any other way. The relationships established with new people and friends are what I’ll look back upon to remember.

CL: And during this eventful year of meeting new people, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
LB: There’s always a challenge whenever you’re starting something new, especially since you’re never quite sure how things will play out, and also because there’s no one to show you how things will proceed, more so since we were the first class of Student Poets. Being first was difficult, but it was great having a huge network of support.

And the challenge for me was to lead a certain activity like a creative writing workshop for a specific audience. I worried that people wouldn’t get it or wouldn’t want to participate. You plan it all out, but at some point, you can’t keep planning, because you don’t know how the kids are going to respond. Initially, I was nervous that the kids didn’t want to talk or learn, but I learned that if you bring a certain enthusiasm and energy, it inspires the audience, especially middle schoolers. Similarly, on the other end, I got to speak with the teachers at the conference in Alabama, and I was concerned about how the teachers would react. It was like, “Who am I?’ and “What does she know about teaching poetry in a classroom?” But I realized that I had nothing to worry about, since they wanted to see and learn from the perspective of a student. I guess I could say the overall challenge was throwing myself into a new setting and not knowing what the reception would be. But through this year, I’ve only had reason to feel empowered and hopeful about the amount of space there really is for poetry in the classroom, especially poetry’s potential to bring out students’ creativity and imagination.

CL: So if you had to name one lesson you’ve learned, or something that you’ve discovered this year as a National Student Poet, what would it be?
LB: At the National Book Festival dinner, we all discussed how poetry brings people together. Of course there is the connection formed, but there’s more than the communion between reader and writer. On a larger scale, more tangible connections are developed through workshops, readings, panels, etc. where you can see and interact, and basically just put a face to a name. It brings fellow teachers and students together. For example, during one of the middle school poetry workshops that I was leading, I realized that I was not only just the teacher, but also a writer. And that the students themselves are writers as well. I had this moment of clarity when I realized that we’re all just writers trying to inspire and help each other improve. Poetry is a connection manifested in infinite ways.

CL: Which makes me wonder, have you ever connected with your German roots through poetry? More specifically, how does your German background influence your work?
LB: It’s influenced me in many ways, but I don’t think that I’m always conscious of it. In my writing, my knowledge of the German language has expanded my vocabulary. For example, I find sense of rhythm and cadence in my writing, especially with the assonance/consonance/alliteration that I use. Someone once told me that I have an ear for that. Exposure to different languages and the different sounds from those languages is something I’ve gained from learning German and speaking it when I was young. German is an awesome language—you can create new word by juxtaposing two different ones together. For example, in German, an adjective and a noun can become one word that has a very specific reason. And it’s for this reason that I think the language has a very large, very specific vocabulary. In that sense, I play with the language, since there is an infinite number of nouns and words. I like to create new words from existing ones, and I like to think that you’re allowed to do that in poetry. It’s poetic license. What you’re not allowed to do in English, you can do in German, and also in poetry.

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Unfortunately, this is the end of the Poets on Poets blog series this summer, but what a great way to end it! What were your favorite National Student Poets insights and perspectives? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Don’t forget, YOU’RE INVITED to the 2013 official Appointment Ceremony for the new class of National Student Poets on September 22 from 1:50 – 2:35 PM at the National Book Festival! Get pumped!

xxCL

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