October 2016

Theodate logo hillstead greenThe Art of Writing: Student Poetry at Hill-Stead

student5Hill-Stead Museum inspires creativity and self-expression in many ways.

  • With impressive architecture and beautiful landscapes, one could spend the day on the grounds of Hill-Stead, writing, sketching, photographing, or strumming a guitar.
  • Inside the house, works of art inspire artists all over the world as they reinterpret and respond to it in unique and important ways.

Poetry is also celebrated at Hill-Stead each day through poetry programs for visiting school groups.  Whether free-writing in the gallery, creating found poems inspired by the collection or creating poetry in the classroom using their visit for inspiration, student poetry programs at Hill-Stead encourage creative self-expression through language.

This issue of Theodate celebrates these programs and shares some fo the student poetry created here at Hill-Stead.

For more information on School Tours at Hill-Stead, please see School, Youth & Home School Tours.

Poetry in a Pouch

In this project, students explore the idea of inspiration as they work collaboratively to create poetry connected to paintings in the Hill-Stead collection.  Using the words from an existing poem—such as “Cap d’Antibes” by Edna St. Vincent Millay; “Autumn at the Farm” by Edward Byrne, “Monet’s Garden” by Burt Kimmelman; or “Autumn Refrain by Wallace Stevens”—as building blocks, students  work together to rearrange the words and write their own ‘found poem.”

Click on an image to read the poems.

French Art and Poetry

JockeyAfter a tour of the museum, students explore artistic creation in the language arts, by composing Cinquain-styled poetry—short poems consisting of five, usually unrhymed, lines. Using a work of art in Hill-Stead’s collection, they are encouraged to think critically about it and develop a list of words to describe it, then arrange the words into a poem.  Some students even use the French vocabulary words learned on the tour!

Future issues of Theodate will present poetry from this program.

Free Writing at Hill-Stead

Some tours offer students the opportunity to take pencil and paper into the house and respond in writing to what they observe, drawing inspiration from stories of the past and objects in the collection.  Students are encouraged to follow where their eye is drawn—the paintings, the sculpture, the architecture, the staircase or the even the wallpaper.  After spending some time looking closely, students may use their notebooks to sketch or write their impressions, words, ideas, and thoughts.  Once they have filled the pages, students work with museum educators to craft their words into a poem, sometimes relating  to their own lives or the emotions inspired by their experience at Hill-Stead. Finally, the poems are taken back to the classroom and the teachers help the students to continue to refine them.  Some of these poems are eventually submitted to the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition.

Click on an image to read a poem, or scroll down for a group poem.

This poem by students from Miss Porter’s in Farmington was inspired by their visits to the museum.

A Word of Thanks from All of Us

From Main, climbing up to the far-reaching Hill-Stead terraces;
A frozen, foggy climb into brilliant sunlight,

Connected by acquired benefits, inspired by Sarah Porter.
We have profited from ‘plein air’ on the hill,
Like the Impressionists, with their fine strokes,
Passing by stone walls, woods and thorns,
An absence of blossoms, but a presence of healthy girls.

Even from afar the Hill-Stead house beckons us,
Envisioned by the Popes from paintings to foliage,
From start to finish, cultivating a perspective.
The ambiance envelops and mesmerizes us,
From our first moment on its threshold.

Many thanks to our wonderful Docents
For inspiration, graciousness and elegance,
Be it Quaker or French or Theodate’s own style,
Spending time in the intimate family boudoirs and archives
As well as within our minds,
We are infinitely grateful.

Poetry Created in the Classroom

Some teachers take what they have learned during a visit to Hill-Stead and incorporate it into their own classroom curriculum.

Using Monet’s Grainstacks for inspiration and Nikki Giovanni’s poem Knoxville, Tennessee as a model, students in the third grade at Bowers Elementary School wrote a group poem.

Grainstacks, Bright Sunlight, Claude MonetGrainstacks, in Bright Sunlight, Claude Monet

I always like summer
I can move like the swaying wind
blowing in my face like a cooled ocean
I don’t have to worry
(except cows)
I love
green grass
all the time
front flips and
the fresh smell of outside
the sun
shines on me
all day
A child comes
up to me and puts
A  bucket of water on me to keep me from getting too dry
I love the people
in my
shade looking at clouds
and finding the shapes of flowers in
the morning
day long

Fresh Voices Poetry Competition

Each year, Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition has offered students from all corners of Connecticut the opportunity to write and prepare poems suitable for presentation and publication. Winners receive mentoring at the museum and read at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival as part of the Fresh Voices Reading on CT Young Poets Day.  To read the work of past winners, see previous issues of Theodate.