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Poet Laureate R.B. Morris Encourages Young Writers to Find Their Voices 
Poet Laureate R.B. Morris reads and talks with fifth-graders at Bearden Elementray School.

How long does it take to write a poem?

What's the connection between music and poetry?

And what exactly does a poet laureate do, anyway?

Last week, poet, musician and playwright R.B. Morris was clearly enjoying the back-and-forth with the fifth-graders in Beth Brewington's class at Bearden Elementary.

Morris, the City's first Poet Laureate, launched the Knoxville Poetry Project in January. Since then, he's been doing his best to inspire as many young people as possible to find and start developing their inner poet's voice.

Morris read Nikki Giovanni, James Agee, a few student poems and some of his own poetry.

In turn, the students wrote poems about Knoxville places that are meaningful to them. They penned thoughts about Market Square and football fields, as well as favorite swingsets and dance studios.

Then one of the students turned the table on Morris: Tell us, who inspired you?

Morris didn't hesitate. His influences included Bob Dylan and Hanshan, a legendary and mysterious 8th or 9th century poet in the Chinese Buddhist tradition. (Little is known of Hanshan, or when exactly he wrote hundreds of poems on rocks, tree trunks and cave walls. But his surviving poetry has been widely translated and has influenced painters, poets and writers of many centuries and cultures - including the Beat Generation writers. And Morris.)

Brewington said her students have been studying blues and musicans such as Mahalia Jackson and Eric Clapton. They discussed the interplay between music, lyrics and poetry. One student offered that his dad was inspired by Morrissey.

The intent of the Knoxville Poetry Project - also known as Latitude 35: Navigating Knoxville Through Poetry - is to bring people together as a community to explore and share Knoxville's rich history. Students are invited to submit an original poem or lyrical prose about Knoxville's impact on their life.

For more details about the project, visit https://www.smore.com/7c6h8.

The format is open to all kinds of poetry, and students' focus should be their impressions of Knoxville in whatever way makes sense to them. The initiative is open only to students.

Young poets can offer a submission to their teachers, or they can send a clearly printed hard copy to Shannon Jackson, Executive Director of Curriculum/Instruction for Knox County Schools. The deadline is the end of business on Friday, March 9.

Cover sheets can be printed here: http://bit.ly/2nmJEmD. Mail submissions to Jackson at 912 S. Gay St., Suite 1421A, Knoxville, TN 37902. For more information, contact Jackson at 865-594-1114 or shannon.jackson@knoxschools.org.

Poet Laureate R.B. Morris reads and talks with fifth-graders at Bearden Elementary School.

Posted by evreeland On 19 February, 2018 at 9:24 AM