Genesee Hill Elementary: A Secret Song 2020

In the winter of 2020, we were pleased to complete our first year working with Genesee Hill Elementary School second graders to create poetry on and off the page. In this project, students from five classrooms worked with Jack Straw’s professional writer Vicky Edmonds and vocal coaches Alyssa Keene and Katya Landau to write and perform their own poetry. This web page and our anthology of the student’s poems are the culmination of this project.

“Even though we only had 2 sessions in each classroom, the children’s writings were amazingly sincere and beautiful,” writes Vicky. “Using only the basic elements of simile, imagery, metaphor, and personification, we wrote into the deepest places inside us to honor our experiences. We wrote to find the hidden beauty inside us, which is so hard to see in ourselves sometimes, and to show appreciation for our families and meaningful others in our lives. We wrote to find our way through our feelings, to learn how to make earnest apologies, to understand the gifts of nature, and to try to find what we share amidst all the differences between us.”

Students performed their poems at a school event. We also created A Secret Song, an anthology of the students’ poems, for the students and the school community, with cover art by Genesee students Poppy Sheaffer and Maddie Conway. A copy of the anthology was given to everyone who participated. The book is available for purchase here.

A Secret Song: Genesee Hill Elementary Poetry was produced by Genesee Hill Elementary School students and Jack Straw Cultural Center with the generous support of the Washington State Arts Commission, The Creative Advantage, and individual donors.

The Jack Straw artist team included writer Vicky Edmonds; vocal coaches Alyssa Keene and Katya Landau; designer Levi Fuller; and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz. Genesee Hill students Poppy Sheaffer and Maddie Conway created the cover art. Special thanks to the second graders of Genesee Hill Elementary and Genesee Hill staff. We especially want to thank 2nd grade teachers Alison Aylesworth, Jacqueline Frazier. Elizabeth Grasel, Renee Marroquin, and Emily Mitchell, who helped make this project possible.


Portrait of Vicky Edmonds, by Katie Jennings

Vicky Edmonds

Vicky Edmonds is a poet and a teacher who uses the written and spoken word to bring the deepest and most authentic parts of ourselves to the page into the…