April is National Poetry Month. Many SEED leaders have found that sharing poems in their SEED seminars is a powerful way to offer participants mirrors of their own experiences and windows into those of others. SEED as an organization also has a history connected with poetry.
The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation from 1982 to 1986 funded a series of seminars on curriculum revision coordinated by Peggy McIntosh for K-12 educators. At the same time, Dodge was exploring the idea of holding a poetry festival, and invited English teachers to submit essays. Emily Style, then an English teacher in New Jersey, submitted one that began: "Imagine the CLASSROOM as a POETIC PLACE." It created a place for her on the Teacher Advisory Board for the first (1986) Dodge Poetry Festival, a multi-cultural biennial event that continues to this day. After writing another essay, Style was among the 25 teachers selected to participate in McIntosh's Dodge-funded seminar series.
During the course of these seminars, McIntosh saw that teachers did not need an outside facilitator to direct them, but could be prepared to facilitate themselves in an inclusive way that shared power in the group. Based on this idea, SEED launched in 1987 as an annual, week-long summer workshop led by teachers, for teachers, under the guidance of McIntosh and Style.
Style continues her writing as a poet while also co-directing SEED. Her poem "Sarah’s Song" "was born from multiple aspects of myself" at the time of the first Dodge Poetry Festival, she writes at the SEED website. Her 1986 poem, "The Quilting Challenge: for every classroom," details her philosophy of education — a philosophy later reinforced by her years of SEED leadership experience. In "Silenced by Shakespeare Class," she looks back to her working-class background and being the first in her family to attend college.
Poems continue to inform SEED work. As Audre Lorde said in Sister Outsider, "Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."
Lorde was speaking here specifically of women's experience, but many SEED leaders have extended her words to other identity locations as well, and to the process of giving voice to the experience of plural identities that is at the heart of SEED.
Read more about SEED's development on our History page.