‘Poetry Guy’ leads ‘Year of the Book’ visit

NASHUA – Poet Ted Scheu stood in front of Meghan Wilson’s fourth-grade class at Dr. Crisp Elementary School Thursday and asked the students to think of something they were “really, really good at.”

It could be anything, he said, whether it is something athletic like soccer, or an activity like playing video games or something silly like eating ice cream.

Then he asked them to write a poem about why they like it by “showing” and not “telling,” using metaphors, similes, descriptive language and other literary tools.

“It doesn’t have to be long,” Sheu said, “but it does have to be from the heart.”

After writing for 10 minutes while Scheu (pronounced “Shy”) walked around and provided feedback, the students had the option of reading their poems aloud.

The subjects varied from playing Minecraft (selected by at least four students) and cheerleading to doing math and eating burgers.

This visit from Sheu, nicknamed the “Poetry Guy,” is one of many author visits and literary events planned throughout the year as part of the “Year of the Book,” a $25,000 grant from the Children’s Literacy Foundation. The grant also allows students in grades two through five to take home 10 books of their own this year.

“I have the best job in the world,” Sheu said in between writing workshops.

Scheu started out in the business world, but eventually left after listening to the “little voice” in his head calling him to teaching and writing.

He is the author of several poetry compilations, including “I Tickled my Teachers: 62 Hilariously Heartfelt School Poems,” and “I Threw my Brother Out: A Laughable Lineup of Sports Poems.”

He said he believes poetry is important for children due in part to its “simplicity (and) emotional power” and added that it is a genre “that every kid can succeed in.”

By this afternoon, he will have visited each fourth grade classroom in the school three times, working with them on noun and verb poems, the Thursday talent poems and rhyming poems.

Each day, he said, provides the students the opportunity to create a “first draft to be proud of,” but also shows them the power of the revision process.

Before they begin writing, Scheu shows them examples of student work from other schools that are not “glorious,” but are instead “accessible.” This, he said, is more effective than any other tool.

It also prompted students to be more willing to share their own work, which he called “magical.”

While some of the children were struggling to come up with what they were good at, their classmates often stepped in, offering, “well, you’re really good at math!” or “she plays the flute!” This, too, was what Scheu was trying to accomplish. He said he wanted students to “open their hearts.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashua