Poetic License

The Enduring Legacy of a Poetry Endowment

Sixth graders Ethan, Isaac, and Zach had one primary goal for selecting their piece for the Poetry Alive! Festival in December: It had to crack them up.

They settled on Darren Sardelli’s “My Doggy Ate My Essay,” a poetic riff on the old the dog ate my homework” theme. The trio mimicked the fictional pooch’s actions as they recited the poem in front of their classmates, eliciting plenty of the anticipated laughs from their audience.

Luca ’26 found that performing Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” gave him new insights he otherwise might have missed. “When you’re doing the acting, you have to sort of break down the poem. It helped us understand the poem a lot more because ‘Caged Bird’ is very figurative.”

Because anonymous funding recently endowed a permanent poetry initiative for the Middle School, students like Ethan, Isaac, Zach, and Luca will always be poised to evoke delight, sorrow, and other deep emotions through poetry.

The Sidwell Friends Middle School Poetry Endowment Fund encourages the creation and appreciation of poetry among all Middle School students by promoting poetry writing activities, recitals, publications, and annual poetry competitions.

As an endowed fund, this gift will fund the Middle School poetry program in perpetuity. Yet its most powerful and enduring impact extends well beyond the financial.

By encouraging students to appreciate poetry and supporting their capacity to create it, the Fund imbues Middle Schoolers with new confidence in their ability to express themselves. By introducing visiting poets like the Poetry! Alive troupe and future poets-in-residence, it connects students with the artists and writing processes themselves. In turn, students become more attuned to the intricacies of language and more adept at exploring how to create meaning. As they embody new points of view, they build new stores of empathy that will carry over to all their studies.

And if these students revel in the experience as much as they did while reading and performing “My Doggy Ate My Essay,” they will find joy in poetry well beyond Middle School—hopefully, for the rest of their lives.

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