Award-Winning Poet is Writing Center Guest Speaker
Posted October 5, 2012
Award-winning poet Iain Haley Pollock visited Germantown Academy’s Upper School and shared his work with the African-American Writers class taught by Upper School English Teacher and Director of the Writing Center Robynne Graffam ’86 and Upper School English Department Head Peter Drewniany’s Strangers in a Strange Land class.
Mr. Pollock, who won the prestigious 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for his book “Spit Back a Boy,” also did a reading and a question and answer session in the Writing Center, which was open to all Upper School students.
“It was a unique opportunity for our students to hear a poet read his own work, and then to talk with him about the origins of the poems, the choices made while writing them, the challenges of writing in general, and the connections his work had to the texts we read in class,” Mrs. Graffam said.
In previous years, GA’s Writing Center has hosted a number of visiting writers, including: fiction writers Steve Almond, Don Lee and Cammie McGovern, essayist and poet Gary Fincke (director of the Creative Writing program at Susquehanna University), poet Nathalie Anderson, and playwrights Bruce Graham and Chisa Hutchinson.
GA is scheduled to host sportswriter Bonnie Ford, who covered the Summer Olympics in London, young adult author Marie Lamba, and novelist William Giraldi later this school year. Mr. Giraldi will be the Upper School’s Writer-in-Residence in March.
“It’s remarkably valuable for students to interact with writers,” Mrs. Graffam said. “The exchange demystifies writing in important ways; the writer is no longer some mythical creature who hatches a piece magically from his or her imagination.
"Suddenly the thought, craft and sheer work that goes into creating something meaningful and well written becomes far more real to the students, and at the same time more attainable. Writers are people, just like them, and they have to work at it too. Also, I think getting to hear how writers work, what motivates them, what makes them choose certain things to include or not, gives students unique insights that can then inform their own writing. I hope the visits are inspiring, and I hope they also get students excited about writing and writers they might not have otherwise encountered.”
GA Upper School students are well versed on the writing process, and they have plenty of opportunity to grow as a writer in the Academy’s Writing Center, where they can receive one-on-one instruction with fully trained student advisors for all writing assignments in all subjects. Students bring assignments at any stage of development - brainstorming, outlining, rough or polished drafts - for review and assistance.
“In my experience, we have a program that does what hardly any other high school writing center does,” Mrs. Graffam stated. “We not only offer one-on-one guidance for students, but our Advisors are exclusively other students, so the training and experience that the Writing Advisors get is extremely valuable to them as well.
“I love seeing the students helping each other—I think it builds confidence on both sides of the equation. The clients (students who are looking for assistance) often develop a close working relationship with their Writing Advisors, often seeking to come back to the same person time after time, and our Advisors genuinely enjoy helping other students. They get very excited when a client does well or makes progress, and that enthusiasm helps forge those connections that make the program successful. In my mind, when I see students together talking about writing, I’m happy. “