A Pantoum from Creative Writing Camp

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July 24, 2012 by witshouston

Camp Instructor Abby Estillore, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in English and a secondary teacher certification from UTeach Liberal Arts, is currently completing an MA in literature at the University of Houston—Clear Lake. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts to middle school students and serving as the grade level lead at Welch Middle School for HISD. Two years after recovering from open-heart surgery in 2008, Abby’s first poem, “Sleep,” appeared in The Marrow Literary Journal of the University of Houston–Clear Lake. She studies and writes poetry that focuses on language play, distortion, and imagination. This is her first summer working with the WITS Creative Writing Camp at the Bellaire campus. Here is a poem from her camp classroom:

To Do

To do you have to try
To know you have to learn
To stop you must defy
Success you have to earn

To know you have to learn
To get you have to reach
Success you have to earn
To help you have to teach

To get you have to reach
To fight you must stand tall
To help you have to teach
To rise you have to fall

To fight you must stand tall
To stop you must defy
To rise you have to fall
To do you have to try

by Aditya, 7th grade

Abby’s notes on the piece:

Though some structured poetic forms might feel restrictive, I took a chance introducing pantoums to my students. The majority of the group had an aversion to rhyming poems, so I thought about experimenting with the idea of recycling lines/phrases in poems as
well as allowing these lines to direct the poem’s path instead. In our final anthology, I did not expect several/multiple pantoum submissions; these poems carried a deep sense of the inarticulable and explainable, presence and absence. Of these sophisticated pantoums, I was impressed by Aditya’s “To Do.” Not only did he choose rhyming patterns, but he also infused a sense of urgency behind unassuming one-syllable words (try-learn, reach-teach, know-stop, fight-rise, must-have). The logical-poetical approach of his poem turns the philosophical into practicality. Aditya’s “To Do” is a straightforward, no-nonsense wise saying that should be printed on a WITS bookmark!

A snapshot of Creative Writing Camp

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Writers in the Schools (WITS)


Writers in the Schools (WITS) is the #1 arts education organization in Texas. With 80 writers and educators on staff, WITS reaches over 23,000 students a year in classrooms, community centers, museums, parks, and hospitals.

The glory of WITS is best expressed by the students--in their own words -- so this blog features essays, stories, and poems that were created by K-12 students in our program. All material (c) Writers in the Schools 2007-2013. If you wish to republish this work, please credit both the organization and the author and link back to this site. This material may not be used in commercial ventures of any kind.

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