SRHS Undead Poets Society a space for young poets

‘ALIVE AND WELL.’ The Undead Poets Society officers pose after a successful meeting. From left, Davin Fulmer (12), Vice President, Jillian Jones (12), President, Charlie Gieseker (12), Treasurer and Bec Minton (12), Secretary. “We haven’t had many meetings yet but I already see so much potential in the students that come each week and it makes my heart happy to see them go beyond their anxieties to speak out,” Jones said. The Society meets Thursdays at lunch in Mr. Kowalcyzk’s room, D201.

Article and photo by Molly Murphey, website editor

The Undead Poets Society at Santa Rosa High School feels more like a weekly poetry workshop than the typical school club. Each week, President Jillian Jones offers members an assignment to complete before the next meeting and, in turn, gives feedback. One week it’s haikus, the next, a poem about themselves and then, a sonnet. 

Jones called the September 23 meeting to order, opening the floor for members to share a poem. Charlie Gieseker, the club’s treasurer, read their poem, “Remember Her,” and was cheered with a mix of claps and snaps, in typical poet fashion. 

Jones says her goal for the club is to encourage emerging poets to share their work with others. During their poetry improv, intrepid poets stepped forward to come up with a poem using six random phrases on the fly; during charades, poets expressed themselves not through words, but through facial expressions and body language; and in between activities, they boisterously chatted. 
Jones says, of poetry, “It opened my eyes to the reason behind why we do things. We don’t watch a movie just to see the credits roll in or to create a piece just to hang it on our wall; it’s the act of creating it and the process of staying in the present moment.”  

Jones had her first exposure to poetry in sixth grade, but didn’t start writing until middle school, when her grandma passed. “It was the moments that we lost, the ones we shared and the ones that will never be. Grief was the fuel for my starting out, and as I grew so did my poems,” said Jones. 

Club secretary, Bec Minton, was Santa Rosa High School’s Poetry Out Loud finalist for the 2018-2019 school year. Minton says that he didn’t really want to participate freshman year, but was convinced by his teacher’s encouragement and a desire to challenge himself. “I won and I was like wow, I really enjoy this. I actually quit Visual Fine Arts and joined theater because of that,” he said. Minton added, “I wouldn’t say I’m very good at writing poetry but reciting it, that’s a different story, I just, I really like finding the meaning behind the poetry.”

Last year, his junior year, Minton secured second place in the Sonoma County poetry competition. Minton finds it hard to choose a favorite poem, but suggests “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Kevin Young, the first poem he analyzed. 

If you’re wondering about the club’s name, yes, it is inspired by the 1989 Dead Poets Society starring Robin Williams, one of Jones’ favorite movies. She tweaked the name to reflect the club’s focus on contemporary poets and because they are “alive and well.”

The Undead Poets Society meets Thursdays at lunch in D201, Mr. Kowalcyzk’s room.

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