Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

When I Was Little

on April 6, 2011

Today’s post on the Denney Poetry Blog is entitled, “If I Could Change My Life”

There is a park across the street from the Detention Center, and, often, after poetry workshop, I have taken my dog for a walk at the park. When I first started the poetry workshop, I had an older cocker spaniel who rode in the car with me on many, many outings. I would go into the poetry workshop and spend two hours writing poetry and the dog would sleep on my seat. When I was finished, the dog and I would go across the street to the park so she could stretch her legs, and I could unwind and take deep breaths of clean, fresh air while enjoying the feeling of movement without being confined by locked doors.

One day, while the dog was sniffing trash cans, I watched a young boy playing on the swings and slides.  He was happy as he called out to his Grandma to watch him play. I looked across the street at the concrete building and thought about the young men who were behind those concrete walls. At one point, not very long ago, all of them were just like this young boy playing on the swings and slides.

The next week, I asked the young men and women to write on the topic, “When I was little.”

As I usually do in the poetry workshop, I begin by reading poems to the youth. A couple of the places where I found inspiration for “When I was Little” included:

Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories: A Tribute to the Threadbare Companions of Childhood by Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz. This book has short essays and vignettes on childhood stuffed animals. Pictures are also included.

Secret of Me by Meg Kearney. This is a novel-in-verse in which fourteen year old, Lizzie is trying to find out who she is and about her adoption.

I asked the youth to think about who they were at age 5, 6 or 7. What did they like to do? Where did they like to go? How did they feel? I then asked them to include: “When I was little” somewhere in their poem. It could be the title, the last line, a middle line, or a beginning line.

What emerged were poems such as “If I Could Change My Life.”

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