Poetry in the Bronx!

It was a joy to be the Visiting Poet at PS 86 in the Bronx last week!

I attended kindergarten there, and PS 86 was also the polling place in our neighborhood. I have many memories of accompanying my parents to vote, and of my mother working as an election worker there. Returning to the school, meeting the vibrant staff and wonderful children– what a delight!

I led three sessions of poetry workshops, meeting with a third-grade class, fourth-graders, and fifth-graders. The students were well-prepared, engaged, and excited. The fifth-grade students even brought their own poetry books with them so they could show me, and I was blown away by their poetry! We met in the library, which was chock full of beautiful books.

In my workshops, I shared several of my poems, and then we focused on one: “Cousins,” from the anthology What is a Family? (Pomelo Books, 2022). We talked about how family members may look alike or have different skin tones. We talked about the word “cousins” in different languages. We talked about how some people have many cousins, and some just a few (or none). And we talked about how some of us don’t see our cousins often if they live in a different country. 

I challenged the students to “think like an illustrator,” and each student illustrated the poem “Cousins.” As they drew, they spoke of their families with tenderness, or told funny cousin stories. I listened to students from Yemen, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic as they shared their family stories with me. 

I left PS 86 with a full heart and deep appreciation for the staff there: Assistant Principal Stephanie Fitzpatrick, Librarian Matt Egan, Literacy Coach Cara Midlige, and the other teachers and staff who welcomed me warmly and shined with enthusiasm even as we approach the last lap of the school year. I hope to return to PS 86 next year, and I left with a feeling of deep, deep joy.

Students reading from WHAT IS A FAMILY? and THINGS WE DO (Pomelo Books)

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, poet Buffy Silverman hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blog. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!


  1. How cool to return to your old stomping grounds as a visiting poet! Sounds like a wonderful workshop for you and the kids. Nothing like family stories to draw connections.

  2. lindabaie says:

    It sounds like a really special time, Mary, especially with your own connections. I imagine there were many stories heard about cousins. I loved mine growing up & don’t get to see them often but love when we connect. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Patricia Franz says:

    Gosh what a joy, Mary, to return to a place that formed you, and “touch the future” by sharing your poetry with students. I love that you chose “cousins.” Cousins are a huge part of my extended family life. In fact, several of my nieces and nephews are visiting this weekend, celebrating our son’s engagement. Here’s to more POMELO poems!

  4. cvarsalona says:

    I loved hearing about your poetry workshops with the children. They certainly looked involved in their work. The visit must have invoked fine memories of your early school days.

  5. What a lovely day you had, Mary! And a chance to meet such a diverse group of kids. I always find it inspiring to see how open kids are to learning about the world. In this, teachers who are writers are so fortunate!

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