On September 13, 2016, Houston’s Poet Laureate, Dr. Robin Davidson, visited YES Prep Southeast to speak with James Sheridan’s and Nathan Hennessey’s AP English Literature students about poetry and to share favorite poems as part of the Favorite Poem Project.
Dr. Davidson is a Professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown, who once studied with Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate and founder of the Favorite Poem Project. As part of her application for Houston’s Poet Laureate, Dr. Davidson proposed creating an anthology of Houston’s favorite poems. The anthology will be printed as a book, and those who nominated their favorite poems may have a chance to be included in the video collection on the Favorite Poem Project’s website.
During her visit to YES Prep Southeast, Dr. Davidson discussed with students how she arrives at a poem. Often, Dr. Davidson hears a line or a stanza and then builds a poem around it. Many students responded that they wrote short stories when prompted by something around them: a video game, a movie, or a song. Dr. Davidson pointed out that this method of generating ideas falls into the ekphrastic tradition of writing about art. Teachers and students were then invited to share their favorite poems. Shared poems included those by Nikki Giovanni, Claudia Rankine, Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edgar Alan Poe, and more.
Dr. Robinson’s final charge to the juniors was to stay involved in the arts: “If you can inspire an audience to care about others’ lives, you’ve done something important.”