Kids’ poetry project

Five schools of children create a poetry anthology

“I am from Hoboken Terminal, and the mob of people rushing to their trains in the opposite direction like shoaling and schooling fish. I live in the rails at the Waterfront where I fell in and out of love.”
This verse by Bella Munoz in the poem ‘Danforth Avenue Light Rail that Runs until 2am’ is part of an anthology titled A Garden State of Mind is available for purchase at the Hoboken Historical Museum at 1301 Hudson St.
Students and teachers at five Hoboken schools created the poetry as part of a seven-month-long project spearheaded by local poet Danny Shot and funded by Party With Purpose (PWP), a local volunteer organization.

“They loved writing poetry because there is a freedom they don’t get in the structure of a five paragraph essay.” – Randi Roberts
Recently, Shot explained that the project involved students from the seventh through the 12th grade from Hoboken High School, Elysian School, Hoboken Charter School, Hoboken Dual Language (HoLa) Charter School, and The Hudson School.
Shot said the ages of the students were an important factor to consider when he began the project.
“I wanted to work with kids from seventh grade to 12th grade,” said Shot. “I wanted it to be on the level that was mature enough that the kids felt free enough to write what they wanted… and I thought that if it involved first or second graders [then the] older kids would censor themselves and I didn’t want that.”
Scott Delea, founder and chairman of Party With Purpose, said that his organization became involved in the anthology because his group always seeks out projects to award micro grants to.
“Part of our mission as an organization is to try and make an impact particularly with kids,” said Delea. “We search out to provide micro grants and fund projects that we think are unique, local, and provide a measurable impact on the community.”
This particular project was awarded $4,500.
PWP typically receives applications for grants once a year in November or December, which is how they discovered this project. The application was submitted by the Hoboken Historical Museum.
Delea liked this project for several reasons, but mostly because of the different people involved.
“I call it creating little bridges across people that wouldn’t typically interact,” he said. “So in this community, kids interact with other kids, parents, and the museum, but some of them may want to be poets and they were exposed to professional poets…and what a unique opportunity.”
The anthology contains over 60 poems with the common overarching theme of place. Shot states in the introduction, “Hoboken is a rapidly changing community. Hopefully the city’s students have captured the essence of the city as it stands at this moment in time. How we see ourselves fitting into (or not fitting into) this place is the overarching theme of this collection.”


The project began in November when poets Andy Clausen and Teresa Carson conducted workshops at the five Hoboken schools for roughly 100 students. Teachers from each school then selected three students to participate in an after-school master class at the museum in February led by Shot, Clausen, and Carson.
Randi Roberts, a seventh grade English teacher at the Hudson School, selected her students for the master class based on the poems they wrote in the workshops and their willingness to participate.
“I first really asked if anyone wanted to go, but they didn’t really want to, because they had to read their poem out loud in front of a bunch of people, which was very scary…” said Roberts. “So I picked my favorite poem and asked them to attend.”
During this master class, students and teachers read their poetry and worked on the presentations, which Roberts said was the most daunting part of the project for her students.
“One of the girls, Lily Bowman, she acts and sings,” Roberts said, noting that sharing your own words, instead of reciting other people’s, makes one more vulnerable.
She said, “Yunus Hokkaci is a concert pianist…but at the same time he was terrified. Walking to the master class he was shaking.”
Roberts’ favorite part of the project was the insight the poems gave into the lives of her students.
“I loved to read their creative work… It’s interesting to see a different side of their brains,” said Roberts.
In May, the students and teachers presented their anthology to the public during a publication party and poetry reading.
Roberts read her poem at the publishing party.
“I felt exactly like the kids felt, that type of vulnerability,” said Roberts. “They were very supportive of me and it was really cool to go through the same experience that they were.”
Shot is hoping to continue the project next school year and make it reoccurring. He is “95 percent sure that we are going to do it again this year. It was a lot of work through the course of the year, but I had such a positive response from particularly the teachers, the schools, and the students involved.”
Roberts hopes to participate next year and already plans to ask the drama teacher to help her students to encourage them to read their poems out loud.
Interested parties can purchase the book at the Hoboken Historical Museum for $5. Proceeds will go to funding the project in the future.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at

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