A group of Zachary High School students were devastated by floodwaters, crushed by senseless violence and inspired to celebrate their differences instead of being exclusively defined by them. They are a collage of shapes and sizes, colors and cultures, and dreams and destinations, but 75 Zachary High School students are now bound by the book they published, ‘Make Some Noise 4!: A Baton Rouge Youth Poetry Anthology.’
A celebration and book-signing, held Feb. 7 at the Zachary High Performing Arts Center, gave an opportunity for the unveiling and hailing of the young authors.
Students Bryanna Brown and Briera Sweet reflected on the recurrent theme and emotions evoked by the August flood. English teacher Charlotte Blanchard recognized that the flood aftermath created an opportunity to use words to heal and cope.
“I knew we had to write,” she said.
Zachary schools were closed for a week. The day students returned to school, Blanchard altered her regular lesson plan and replaced it with a writers’ workshop in hopes of fostering an “environment of compassion, empathy and support” for students. “I told students I wanted to capture their insights in raw, pure form on that very first day, and I was completely blown away by their prose and poetry,” she said.
An idea was born that partnering with area high schools would allow students to document and share the tragedy from the teen perspective.
“I told my students I refused to believe the writing they had already produced wasn't meant to be shared with the world,” Blanchard said. “If this was meant to be, the best means of sharing your work with those who need to hear it will present itself.”
The opportunity did, in fact, present itself when school librarian Christina Knight invited Blanchard’s students to participate in a workshop being planned with visiting poet and novelist Terry O’Neal, who writes especially for youth audiences.
O’Neal spent two days in October with area students sharing her work and inspiring them to write their own pieces. Nearly 100 students submitted work to O’Neal who edited and compiled the collection into the latest edition of the “Make Some Noise” anthology.
“This special edition brings together a diverse variety of poetry, prose and short stories written by Baton Rouge youth," O’Neal said. “The book is designed to enrich the lives of today’s youth, while allowing them to heal and rebuild hope and community through creative writing.”
Family was another popular theme with the student writers. Jesse Venable speaks of pain, pride and growth in “Brothers,” while Miranda Albarez sees the world through her grandmother’s eyes and perspective in “Line of Sight.”
Students tackled diversity and division using the words to mend gaps and foster understanding.
Jordyn Bernardi’s “The White Woman” offers precise perspective while Caelyn Zeno uses “Complexion” to show how skin tone can create walls even within the African-American community.
“Make Some Noise 4!: A Baton Rouge Youth Poetry Anthology” can be purchased at amazon.com.