Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gratitude for My First Job Revisted

I am at the main branch of the library still digesting lunch from Santa Café with Anne Valley-Fox and Stanley Noyes.

When I was longing for poetry in any form, volunteering at my kids' school, John Hyson in Chimayo, coolest place on earth to send out kids and presided over by Julia Hudson, I met these two folks. I had nothing published, or maybe a poem in the New LIfe News, the newspaper of the food co-op.

This is circa 1981. Stan Noyes was the literary person at New Mexico Arts Division where we had a wonderful and serious Poets in the Schools program where the real poets, including Arthur Sze, Harold Littlebird, Anne V-F, Jimmy Santiago Baca, John Brandi, Jim Sagel, Miriam Sagan, Judyth Hill, and I think Mei Mei Bressenbrugge all worked. They called it PITS. It paid something like $60 a day, and then $100. Big bucks for an artist beginning.

Each year fledgling me would apply to Stan and New Mexico Arts Division. Two years I got rejected, and kept on volunteering with John Hyson and the kids, made a book of their little Chimayo poems on copier and construction paper covers. By the third time I applied, Stan took me on, though I had little other experience than volunteering. I got work at two schools, Capshaw and Alameda Middle Schools and with my first income from poetry, put a down payment on a stove. It cost $500.

I am still working as a poet-in-the-schools through New Mexico Culturenet though I am happy passing it on to the young poets, the Slammers, the up and coming. The other poets from the above list of PITS poets in Stan's coterie have gone on to be life long poets, win major awards, work tirelessly with children, and two of us to be Santa Fe Poets Laureate, Arthur Sze and I.

We presented Stan with a Poetry Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts, a small and grassy roots tribe of which I am co-president of the Board. We wrote him an award check for $500. I think, no, I am sure it is the same $500 I originally got paid, circling and spiraling around above Santa Fe and the minds of children. Today Anne and I took Stan out to a nice lunch, my birthday lunch as well, and presented him with a plaque that spoke to our gratitude for what he gave the literary community. The plaque is handsome, by Cirrelda Bryan, and has a big THANKS. It is a way that we hope he remembers how much he has done for all of us, not to mention the countless school kids who got to work with the likes of John Brandi and Jimmy Baca and even me. His work is still rippling.

I told Stan a story about finding a poem written by an Alameda kid, Joe Ray Sandoval in about 1982 in David Gonzales' English class. I kept it as I did a few good poems. Joe Ray has gone on the be a performance poet and write the full length movie, Spoken Word. He didn't remember writing poetry in middle school, but I sent him a copy. Stan commented that it is very important to influence kids when they are young. Just hearing him say that took me back, dreamtime, to being at his home and being trained a bit in what works in the classroom.

I want to pass on what I know about teaching writing to kids. I want to pass on gratitude for when there was federal money in the arts, and to Stan Noyes, and to the poets who have kept on the sacred path of writing and giving. I have gratitude for Alex Traube who made his own PITS program, based on the old one which also employed him as a photographer, as well painters, dancers, potters, muralists, sculptors. It was called The Artist in Residence Program way back when.

All sorts of Gratitude, and Happy Birthday to me. Glad I got born and got to have this day.
JL for the PL


  1. Thanks so much for writing about the early days of teaching poetry in New Mexico. I am really enjoying reading your blog! xox Gary

  2. nice stories......poetry and kids the best combination......
    love you.
    janet (vucinich)

  3. love hearing about all these connections around the old tradition of hiring artists to teach ... the chain of one generation to the next ... and your bittersweet ..."when there was federal money in the arts"... you know how to round 'em up, Joan!


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