ACW’s 18th annual High School Writing Retreat kicked off this past October at Paul Smith’s College. We welcomed over one hundred students from ten different North Country high schools (and homeschools) for two days of poetry performances, workshops, and collaborations.
As with every year, our 2022 teaching faculty was comprised of talented, diverse, and engaging spoken-word poets acclaimed for their words as well as their ability to instill creativity and kindness in their students. Felicia Cade, Karl Michael Iglesias, and Jon Sands not only wowed us all with their dynamic performances, but led students on deep dives into writing, reading, understanding, and performing contemporary poetry.
Students spent the mornings in workshops with our various instructors, learning different approaches to writing poetry. These workshops are always generative, giving students ample time to find inspiration, draft new work, and get feedback from teachers and peers.
In the afternoon, students gathered again in our main performance space for an open mic. Any student could sign up to share a new piece of writing they’d crafted that day.
The second day kicked off with another round of performances and pep talks from our visiting poets. After a long day of teaching on Thursday, the poets all gave a reading at ACW in the evening. Here’s how they kept the energy up for day 2…
At the end of the second day, students were challenged to write a collaborative poem with a group of other students from different schools. With the guidance of the instructors, these groups of 4-6 students worked together to write a piece together. Then they were tasked with planning how the poem could be read before an audience, requiring students to not only visualize their performances, but in some cases, choreograph them.
Another special thing about this Fall’s High School Writing Retreat was the presence of teacher Ellie Schwoebel of Boquet Valley Central School and her group of ninth graders. As a high school student, Ellie attended the High School Writing Retreat herself, so now that she’s a teacher with students of her own, it was important to her to bring them to the retreat. Hear Ellie’s gratitude and nostalgia when she talks about what the retreat meant for her and what she hopes her ninth graders take away from the experience.