When I was in 7th grade I thought I was pretty much master of the universe. I was also unbelievably awkward and couldn't look a girl in the eyes. Looking back, I don't know how to reconcile these features of my adolescence, born on the pimpled edge between childhood liberation and teenage anxiety.

I started writing poetry then, long since lost. But those early, playful stirrings on a page would later mature into the black stars of a real poet.

Last week I had the opportunity to relive those 7th grade years when I taught middle schoolers to write contemporary haiku poems. These newborn poets reflected for the first time on “economy of words” and uncovering “the wonder of ordinary things.”

Some favorites:

no one saw
what was still there
stranded in the sand

Maddie R., St. Gregory's School

a man vacuuming
but he will never stop
cleaning a desert

Nick D., JLS Middle School

two men that looked alike
were not twins
both were next to a mirror

Payat M., JLS Middle School

After the class, I posted all the haiku to the internet and my students read their work to their respective schools — standing up on stage and reading from the podium: talk about awkward. But sometimes you can say a lot with few words.

See the complete collection.

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