I May Have Just Met the Best 6th-Grade Poet in America

When I speak at schools, a teacher will often come up to ask if I wouldn’t mind wearing some kind of amplifier/microphone thingy around my neck for a student who is hearing impaired.

And of course I don’t mind. I put it on and forget about it. Easy.

Styles vary, but it usually looks something like this.

After a presentation last Friday at Northbrook Junior High, about 25 miles north of Chicago, a small female student approached to ask for the return of the assistive listening device that hung around my neck. She had a nice smile, a sweet presence, and I liked her immediately. We chatted for a short while. I asked how she managed when people didn’t wear the device, and about lip reading, and getting by. I told her that I suffered from hearing problems myself, a surgery with a specialist in Ohio and a second one planned. I understood, on a personal level, how terribly isolating hearing loss can be.

We said goodbye. As she left, I commented to a nearby teacher about how much I liked that girl. “She’s probably a writer,” I added. You can often tell. She was thoughtful and attentive, a watcher, an observer. In my experience, those are the types who make writers. The quiet ones. And there’s that other thing about writers: it’s something you sense in people, the way they absorb their surroundings. You can tell there’s something going on between the ears.

It’s rarely the way they talk, but more the quality of their listening.

“Yes, she’s a very good writer,” the teacher informed me.

A few minutes later, my friend, Erin, was back. She handed me a poem. A small group of teachers and I were about to have lunch in another room. But I read the poem while Erin stood by, watching. And finally, when I reached the end, I told her that it was incredible, that I was moved by it, that I admired and envied her talent. “You are such a great writer,” I told her, and I meant it. Erin smiled, a terrific smile, and told me that I could keep the poem. And I did, but not until I got her autograph. In green ink, no less.

Erin Rosenfeld. The writer.

I don’t know. I do a lot of school visits, a lot of blabbering about me, me, me. But it’s always these small moments that make it worthwhile, that make me feel like there’s value in it. When out of the blue a connection is made, and I meet somebody like Erin, and maybe in some small way she’ll remember this moment, for I know I’ll remember her. So much talent, insight, and depth of feeling in someone so young.

So here is “Logophile Poem,” by Erin Rosenfeld. As I understand it, Erin wrote it about a year ago. Words, words, words. Coming from a young girl who leans in and listens hard. Who reads lips. Who watches. Who see things that others might miss. And who in her own way hears the music on a deeper level than us all.

I’m glad I met you, Erin. You struck a chord in me. Keep writing.

A special shout out to Annette Farmer, a most awesome librarian (and triathlete!) who worked so hard, along with Marc Goldstein, to bring me out to Illinois in the first place. Thank you.

8 comments

  1. Margaret O says:

    brilliant! Don’t lose track of this one.

  2. Annette F. says:

    James,
    I love the unexpected reverberations of a day like last Thursday. Thank you again for everything.

    Best,
    Annette

  3. Shannon Zajac says:

    I am a 7th grade teacher at this school and was so touched by your blog about Erin and the connection you had with her. Thank you for sharing, it brought me to tears. Those moments when we recognize and connect with a spirit that touches us are what life is about. I wish you many more of these moments! Thank you again.

  4. Doug Schuler says:

    I to am a teacher in dist. 28. Very moving story you told here and equally moving writing by this student. I feel so blessed to work in a school environment where such things are cherished. I did not meet you, but you have left your mark on the students within these walls and now on me.
    Carry on friend,
    Doug

  5. jimmy says:

    Thanks for the comments, Margaret, Annette, Shannon, and Doug. In some ways, I wanted to shine a light on Erin because of her obvious talent, but in other ways I didn’t wish to single her out — there are so many other gifted, open, thoughtful, amazing kids out there. As a parent with children in grades 6 and 8, I’ve come to really appreciate & marvel at the Middle School Years. Yes there are ups and downs, but such a period of growth and transformation. I love it, the daily craziness. Erin is unique, but at the same time there are so many other kids just like her — if that makes any sense at all!

  6. Sondra Weinsten says:

    I am overwhelmed by the talent of this very special young girl. I wish that I had more time to watch her grow and continue to display this gift that she has. Her creativity knows no limits, and I am so proud of her for what she has attained so far. Thank you for recognizing her writing skills and for your encouragement. It will remain with her as she matures and will always have special meaning to her. Erin is my GREAT niece, and I love her for all the many gifts, besides writing, that she possesses.

  7. Rita Rosenfeld says:

    I am Erin’s grandmother, her “Mimi”. Those lives that have recently been touched by this special young lady, now know what I have known for so long…Erin is a unique individual who finds a way into one’s heart and mind and stays there forever.
    I have been privy to Erin’s “Logophile Poem” for quite some time and I marvel at its content. How does she summon up these words, these descriptions, these feelings?
    I am so fortunate and proud to be the Mimi of such a gentle and kind soul who finds the good in the world around her and through her actions and deeds makes the world a better place for all of us.

  8. Mary Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing this, JP. This is one amazing writer, for sure!

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