From a cheeky complaint about Al Roker to an ode to coffee to a heartfelt tale of unrequited love, the latest edition of student-produced literary magazine the Perkins Press has it all.
The collection of poems and short essays, curated by Perkins School for the Blind Secondary Program teacher Jeanne Fleming each year, highlights the creativity of her students. They put their imaginations to work and show off their writing skills, then get the chance to read their work out loud and practice public speaking.
“I really enjoy teaching creative writing because students get to express how they are feeling, whether it be joy, sadness, anxiety or wonder,” Fleming said. “Creative writing is as important for students who are blind as it is for sighted students.”
Throughout the school year, Fleming and other English teachers introduce the students to different styles of writing, from haikus to sonnets, vignettes to essays. They offer students a series of different prompts. Some are concrete, like “What’s your favorite subject?” or “Write about a vivid childhood memory.” Others are broad and open to interpretation, like “Why?”
In the spring, Fleming selects a range of work from students who write at every level for the Perkins Press. Different types of writing highlight the strengths of each student. Secondary Program student Anicia, for example, is a prolific writer both in class and in her spare time.
“It’s a good way for me to cope with the stress I’m having. I can turn the stress into anything I want to,” she said, whether that’s a science fiction story or even a song. She was having a bad day when she started dreaming up the lyrics to “I love,” a poem from the Perkins Press that she put to music through the Garage Band app on her iPad (listen below).
Once the collection is printed in braille and large print around the end of the school year in June, the students read their pieces out loud for their classmates.
“I enjoy sharing very much,” said Secondary Program student Jamie. “I really enjoy writing – it’s something I’m very passionate about.”
While many of their poems speak to universal topics like a love of smartphones or pets, some speak to their unique experiences as young adults who are blind or visually impaired. Jamie’s vignette, “Merciless Winter,” details the frustration he feels when snow and ice covers the ground and he can’t navigate independently with his white cane. “The snow, like a bed not yet made, piles up like crumpled sheets and pillows. It’s a field of mines and tripping hazards.”
Sometimes the students even read the work of other students, adding their own emphases and inflection to particular sections that resonated with them. As Jamie read Anicia’s poem that describes a beach day gone wrong, thanks to Al Roker’s poor forecast, he laughed throughout. He placed particular emphasis on the line, “the sky began to spray” – a turn of phrase he clearly enjoyed.
“The Perkins Press is a fun way to end the year,” said Fleming. “Since I have many of the students for a couple of years, I observe their growth and confidence in becoming writers, which is very rewarding.”
Interested in reading the Perkins Press? Email Jeanne Fleming at Jeanne.Fleming@perkins.org for a digital copy.