On May 11, 2011, 826DC students participated in a poetry workshop and reading at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The students were joined by Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, and Aimee Mann.
“Poetry is one of the most powerful forms of expression, and to be able to write poetry in the White House with the nation’s leading poets and songwriters will be a truly inspiring experience for 826 students,” said Joe Callahan, Executive Director of 826DC.
The workshop was the culmination of a four month-long poetry writing program for DC high school students made possible through a partnership between the President’s committee for Arts and Humanities, 826DC, and the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. In addition to hosting planning meetings back in January, Lannan Director Carolyn Forché was honored to serve as a mentor in the poetry workshops:
“The poetry workshops at 826DC drew students from several schools, who came together out of their love of writing and reading poetry. It was thrilling to be with [the students], and to share their joy at putting words to the page and sharing them aloud. It was an honor to work with them, and now the White House, too, will have the special experience of meeting these young poets.”
The 15 DC high school students, representing Duke Ellington, Ballou, Wilson and Bell High Schools, worked other DC-based poets, including Professors Kyle Dargan from American University and Sally Keith from George Mason. The students’ work will be published in an anthology in the coming months, and sold at 826DC’s writing center, The Museum of Unnatural History.