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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Students and alumni reminisce about former Poetry elective

As the incoming students begin the arduous task of choosing electives for their first year of high school, some classes they could have taken five years ago are no longer an option.

Offered and supported throughout its history by the English Department, Creative Writing: Poetry, which won state and national recognition for the quality of its curriculum, was discontinued due to a lack of sign ups in 2010. The class was taught by Judith Sutton from 1999 until 2009 when she retired to focus on her own writing and private program she teaches called Poetry Power. Poetry was then continued by English teacher Bill Peck until 2010. Despite this, many of the former students, both male and female, still look back to the class as one of the best they took.

“Poetry was a life-changing class for most of the people in it,” 2012 alumna Sanjana Chetia said. “We discovered ourselves and the power of our writing under poetry’s guidance.”

The class consisted of two parts, writing poetry and analyzing poetry. Much of the class depended on the students’ motivation to work hard and willingness to put in time and effort, said 2012 alumna Sophie Kang.

Another interesting aspect of Poetry was its Friday tutorial field trips. The students went to places like Wildwood Park, Blue Rock Shoot, Bella Saratoga and Peck Heritage Gardens to get inspired to write in their poetry journals.

“The largest commitment we had was taking field trips to various places during Friday tutorials,” 2012 alumna Darisha Jhutty. “However, they were actually the best and most rewarding part.”

These trips helped the students write in a timely fashion and brought them closer together.

“Combined with the lunch period, [the trips] gave us just enough time to not only get inspired in our own poetry, but to hear poems of others and write in our poetry journals,” Sutton said.

“The trips also always involved a meal we shared together.”

Other students agree that although the class was an effort to keep up with, they were extremely satisfied with the results. In addition to helping the students create their own poetry and studying the historical background of written poetry, the students also developed other skills, like teaching and time management. The class also emphasized speaking in front of audiences, writing in poetic form, applying poetry techniques save rhyme to improve ability to write prose and analyzing poems in an in-depth manner.

“The courses not only focused on writing poems, but also analyzing them at a deep level, excellent preparation for college entrance and AP tests,” Sutton said.

Another unique characteristic of Poetry was its guest teachers and helpers. Sutton frequently sought donations to hire poets to come teach and help the students with their own poetry. One notable assistant was Erica Goss, who is now the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos.

“Every student received a lot of attention,” Sutton said, “not only from me, but the wonderful writers who worked to help the students.”

Because there were three levels to Poetry, a mentoring system was established to help students at all levels. Poetry I students were mentored by Poetry II students; Poetry II students were mentored by Poetry III students, the students from the graduate division of Poetry at San Jose State University and Sutton herself through a weekly series of private evening seminars; Poetry III students were mentored mostly by Goss and Sutton. While Sutton was teaching,Peck also worked with all levels of Poetry, coached students for their various performances and taught all poems Shakesperean in nature.

“The higher levels of Poetry arranged seminars, mentored the lower levels, and wrote and studied much more, so [we] were always busy in and out of class,” Chetia said.

These unique teaching methods helped a lot though, and resulted in multiple awards and publications across the nation, Sutton said, some earned as early on as Poetry I. Standard English classes at school can also be credited for helping the Poetry students’ literary works.

“[Many students] received significant literary awards in Poetry II and III from adult literary journals and organizations,” Sutton said. “They all recorded them on their college applications and many college interviewers chose to discuss their work in Poetry.”

The students are not the only ones who think back to the class as a busy workspace. Sutton agrees that the elective often kept her busy, and she sometimes misses the “hustle-bustle” of being a classroom teacher.

All of the former students agree that if Poetry were brought back as an elective, it would help those who would choose to take it.

“You can really learn a lot about yourself and what’s important to you when going through the process of creative writing,” Kang said. “A class to focus on your own personal writing is hugely important to not only becoming a better writer but also developing as a person.”

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