Burly football players next to literary magazine editors. Soccer jocks next to honor students, next to moms, dads, teachers. Thirty-seven students and two staff members read original poems and prose aloud at the packed Bookworm of Edwards Nov. 3 for the Spilled Ink Poetry Jam. Topics ranged from love to social disdain, loss of life to searching for light.
"Everyone has something to say, no matter what role they play in the school or the community," said Haille Hogfeldt, a Battle Mountain High School senior who read two poems to the crowd: a love poem she dubbed "Sunrise," and a dark sonnet entitled "Rock Bottom." "There were poems about losing loved ones, deep things, and others were fun and light. You see people in a new light in their writing. It's very honest and you saw a different side of people."
Battle Mountain High School English teacher Dana Zilliox helped organize the second annual event. The Bookworm volunteered the venue. "They're really supportive and encouraging of young writers," Zilliox said about the Edwards bookstore.
For Zilliox, it was a chance to see her students as people.
"I think sometimes we don't recognize as teachers what our students have been through," Zilliox said. "We see them as being so young and it's easy to get into a routine of maybe not seeing past the student and their grade and work. What writing allows students to do is to tell us their stories."
Zilliox gave her English 4 students the assignment of writing a 500-word "This I Believe" essay, based on the popular NPR podcast. As part of their final exam, after they've gone through revisions and been polished, the students will submit them to NPR, she said.
"With the 'I Believe' essays especially, I was able to see the affect loss of family and parents who have died young has had on students," Zilliox said. "Their ability to talk about it, and discuss the loss and what they've learned and how they live their life because of it is astonishing. It takes courage to share that with their parents, teachers and community. It's very powerful stuff."
And of course, along with the heavy, there was also a hefty helping of humor, too. These are, after all, wise-(cracking) and witty teenagers.
"There was comic relief too, that's much appreciated," Zilliox said. "There are students who do that so well."
"I think it was great to hear everyone pour themselves out on paper and share that," Hogfeldt said. "It's not something we get to do often ... share it with each other in a setting like that, especially everyone at once. It was a fun and powerful experience for all of us."
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Aly Pelchant, senior
As a young girl, I often visited the Fairy Caves, a tourist attraction about an hour from home. The seemingly endless underground tunnels fascinated me. I marveled in the stalagmites as they forced themselves upwards from the ground, and the stalactites as they clung to the cavern ceiling. Toward its end, the underground tour took the group down several flights of stairs to a spacious opening deep inside the cave. After closing the door and turning out the lights, no light could reach the room, guaranteeing pitch darkness. "Put your hand directly in front of your face," the guide would direct. "You can't see it can you?" The darkness was absolute, unquestionable.
I loved everything about touring the Fairy Caves, but the 30 seconds inside the unlit cave room sent me into panic. I always knew the darkness wouldn't last, but even so I'd spend the whole time desperately searching for the smallest hint of light. Relief washed over me as soon as the guide's laser pointer appeared on the cave wall, dancing over the limestone formations.
I believe in searching for light. I believe that light can be found everywhere, even when hopelessness and despair seem to overshadow it. I define light as anything that makes me feel happy, secure, and hopeful. Every so often, I feel exactly how I did in that dark cavern room, like when my dad passed way five years ago. It's these times when it's easy to believe that the light has completely disappeared and that it may never come back. However, I am certain that as long as I'm willing to look, this will never be the case.
I believe light is easy to seek out because it can be found in so many places. There is light in the people I surround myself with: my friends, family, and support system. There is light in humor, whether it be laughing to the point of tears or revealing the subtlest hint of a smile. There is light in appreciating the things that are beautiful: a starry night, the autumn leaves, or a hello from a complete stranger. There is light in even the most nefarious villainous people, although this light may only surface occasionally and in unexpected ways. There is light in memories, especially those involving my dad in the happiest days of his life. And there is light in the tip of a tour guide's laser.
I believe in searching for light because I have no other choice. When I find myself surrounded by inevitable darkness, I look for light in everything. The happiness, security, and hope I see in the seemingly insignificant aspects of my life will scatter the darkness and make it bearable. The light in my life will never completely disappear, even if it temporarily fades, and I believe that is a promise.
by Jake White, BMHS senior
Spare me grief but give me time;
My mistakes scratched at my door
For so long my ears became sore,
I grabbed my luggage to board a train of thought
It was then I realized to let go is something I ought.
by Haille Hogfeldt, BMHS senior
Wildly I flail, plummeting through the air
Towards jagged rocks below, woefully bound
To confront cruelly destined fate, which will bear
The shards of my soul strewn across the ground.
My soundless screams pierce only my bloody ears.
This scarlet river stains nothing but my skin.
Alone my heart drowns in this ocean of tears.
On the threshold of defeat, strength strung thin.
But in my deepest most desperate dark night,
A faint light illuminates for me to see,
My shackles shattered, stripped away. My plight
Finally from my fearsome chains sets me free.
And so with these naked fragments of my soul,
I rebuild my life, promise to live it full.