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YWP teaching artist Renee Simms leads a writing exercise

La Joya students creating their own poems

Kimiko Hahn signs autographs for students after the reading

Hahn discusses writing and teaching at teacher roundtable after the event

Distinguished Visiting Writers in the Schools

Through the partnership between ASU’s Young Writers Program (YWP) and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, I recently had the pleasure of delivering the American Book Award-winning poet, Kimiko Hahn, to La Joya Community High School in the Tolleson Union High School District. There, Hahn read her poetry, spoke eloquently and honestly about her craft and answered questions for the 150 aspiring young writers in the room. In the weeks prior to her visit, the high school students wrote their own poems, studied Hahn’s poetry and biography and participated in creative writing residencies facilitated by YWP teaching artist Renee Simms and MFA graduate student Ryan Holden.

Renee and Ryan met with La Joya’s AP English and Creative Writing students. During the residency they wrote two poems, one that connected a memory to the sense of smell, and one—known as the “Where I’m From” poem—that listed all the rich detail about their neighborhoods and lives after discussing Kimiko Hahn’s biography. An example of each can be read here. The poems will all be considered for publication in YWP’s k-12 literary journal, 22 Across: A Review of Young Writers.

Of her experience with YWP, Hahn said, “It was indeed the high point of my visit. First of all, I forgot that I was in a room with 150 teenagers! I've taught freshman for nearly two decades and I know how antsy that age group can be. However, these students were attentive, truly engaged, polite, and eager to have their very smart questions answered. The Young Writers Program must be doing something profoundly right in being able to manage and develop this kind of extraordinary engagement. Furthermore, the poetry that they [the students] read was genuine and of a high quality. No matter what these students end up doing in their lives, clearly their experience of the creative process will serve them well.”

After the reading, students waited nearly thirty minutes in line to speak personally to Kimiko Hahn and to get her autograph on the free broadside bookmarks created by YWP’s Salima Keegan. Hahn then met with La Joya teachers for a small roundtable discussion to conclude the event.

The Distinguished Visiting Writers in the Schools program reaches out to Arizona high school students and their teachers. Social embeddedness is core to the development of ASU as the New American University. Together, the Piper Center and the Young Writers Program are working hard to build strong, vibrant communities, to stimulate art for a new century and to provide access to truly great writers for Arizona’s k-12 community.

Sean Nevin
Director, Young Writers Program


My Dog
His fur
Smells like the carpet.
His paws smell of old crumbs that have found
Their way in the crevices of his walking pads.
His breath smells like the inside of a
Bag of dog food, mixed with fish.
He also produces other smells, but theses I’d rather
Not mention.
When I give him a bath, he smells like
roses and soap.
Minutes later he goes back to smelling
Like carpet.

By Juan Flores
(La Joya Community High School student)

I Am From
I am from sleeping on the ground outside,
from watching the bright stars in the middle
of the night. I am from the chaotic river behind
my room and the smell of dead fish.

I am from climbing the old grandfather trees,
from playing in the mud. I am from "ya'll, yeeha,
and woohoo" and the striking words, "Don't you
dare lose your brother again."

I am from the competitive games of hide n' seek
and the intoxicating smell of homemade chili
I am from the addictive lyrics of the eagles
to the heart wrenching rhythm of Maylene.

I am from the seventeen complicated years of
love, honesty, and faith—officially!

By Jessica Brandt
(La Joya Community High School student)

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