“Stray Feet” has visited The Senior Citizens of North Shore Jewish Center, Port Jefferson Station;
North Merrick Senior Community Service, North Merrick; Westbury Senior Center, Westbury;
Five Towns Senior Center, Hewlett; Hempstead Senior Center, United Methodist Church, Hempstead;
Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Woodbury;
Doubleday Senior Center, Oyster Bay; Levittown Senior Center, Levittown;
Rockville Centre Nursing Home, Rockville Centre, where resident Virginia Terris, a wonderful poet
and friend of Maxwell Wheat, read with him, Ellen Pickus and Gayl Teller to an audience
of 30 residents in wheelchairs in a very moving experience.
Daleview Care Center, Farmingdale; Long Beach Assisted Living Facility, Long Beach;
Personal Enrichment In Retirment Group, Hofstra University Senior Citizens Program;
Pat D’Amelio’s five 8th grade Language Arts classes, Howitt Middle School, Farmingdale;
most of the English classes at South High School, Valley Stream;
500-600 students in the library of Valley Stream Central High School, Valley Stream;
Shana Hilsenrath’s five 7th grade Language Arts classes, Howitt Middle School, Farmingdale;
Ginny Paladino’s Creative Writing class for Juniors and Seniors, Farmingdale High School, Farmingdale;
most of the 49 English classes at Valley Stream North High School, Franklin Square;
30 7th and 8th grade English classes at Memorial Junior High School, Valley Stream;
Nicole Maresca’s Creative Writing Class, Mepham High School, Bellmore;
The Senior Citizens of the Mid-Island Y JCC, Plainview;
Sharon Kalan’s five sophomore English classes at Division Avenue High School, Levittown;
Deborah Arcuri’s four poetry classes for two successive days at Wantagh High School;
Rachell Koegel’s Great Writers Class of the Talented Writers Program, Long Beach High School
The Maria Montessori School, Levittown–with Fred Von Burg–the whole school on mats took off on magic carpets of poetry
Ellen Pickus, poet–Today was a lot of fun for me. I really felt I was in my element. It was such a pleasure
to be back in high school. The kids were great.
Lloyd Howell, poet–Actually it worked out very well…I enjoyed myself a lot. I asked them for a subject
and then tried to read a related poem. Think I touched a number of them. It was good
to get personal and liberating to read. I’ll have to do this again.
Paula Camacho, poet–Maria and I read for two hours to two different classes at Valley Stream South.
The students impressed me with their gracious and polite reception to the reading.
Doreen Spungin, poet–Today’s experience at South High was wonderful. I haven’t been in front of a
class for many years and today made me remember the best of my teaching moments.
Lloyd Abrams, poet–I was trepidatious going in, but I ended up having such a good time with the three
classes I had.
Muriel Weinstein, poet–I just loved it…and the kids responded so well. They were truly engaged.
We wound up writing a poem together about giraffes. We not only give. They give to us.
Gayl Teller, poet–The audience of 50 people in wheel chairs with their rapt attention, spontaneous and
exuberant comments of identification, generous applause, hugs, and begs to come
back, their emotional leaps from their chairs–that was poetry in motion.
Cliff Bleidner, poet– It was great! I loved it!
Ursula Nouza, poet– Today was fabulous. The kids were responsive and interactive. More! More!
Pete Dugan– I had a fun time. The kids were great!
Beverly Trotiner, Program Chair, Senior Center, North Shore Jewish Center–You were all excellent.
The topics were interesting and we could relate to them.
David Fritz, English Chair, Valley Stream Central High–I just want to thank you for an outstanding
presentation today. The poets were excellent and really spoke to our kids.
I appreciate your time as well as the time of the many poets.
Ginny Paladino, Creative Writing Teacher, Farmingdale High–My creative writers and I spent almost
the entire period today discussing how very much we enjoyed your visit. Both your
poetry and your presentation of it were truly inspirational to aspiring young writers,
and your visit was very much appreciated.
Shana Hilsenrath’s 7th graders, Howitt Middle School, Farmindale, wrote letters of appreciation:
Taylor Donnelly–Thank you for coming to my class to teach me about poetry. I liked the poem about
the rain. I definitely learned a lot about poems. I learned that they don’t need to rhyme.
Erika McCrowe–Thank you for comming into our classroom to read us some of your lovely poems.
I loved them. You made my day. All of them that you guys read were fabulous and
verry, verry good. I was thinking about your poems all day. I am very glad you came.
Sarah–Thank you so much for coming into our class and taking your time out of your day to read us your
wonderful and interesting poems. Every single poem you shared with us were unique.
One day, I hope to write as beautiful poems as all of you…You taught me that when you
write poems, you really find yourself and find who you are. I had a wonderful time.
Daviah Witter–Thanks so much for coming and reading your poems to us! I loved all of them, especially
the ones about Halloween. I sometimes write poetry too, when I feel inspired. If I see
something like the trees standing still, and the animals running around in the park,
sun beating down on my face, I would write a poem about nature. i feel happy and
ecstatic to know that poets like you guys would take the time to read to me.
This taught me that poetry isn’t just about ryhming and being silly, its also
about lessons and memories I would have.
Nicholas Bowles–Thank you for reading your wonderful poems to our class. I really liked the poem
called Rain. The fact that the rain brought people together was spectacular.
Jude Pierre–Those poems made me feel calm and relax. I hope you will come back.
Robert Perrone–I liked how you guys took little things from your life and made them into baetiful poems.
Amanda McDonnell–I really think I learned a lot about poets and you have inspired me. Maybe
I might be a poet.
Anthony–The poems …were great. I’m sorry that the periods weren’t longer so you couldn’t share all of your
Elijah Laurean–Thank you for taking the time to explain the foundementals of writing a poem and to put
your soul and life into it.
Jessica Szilagiji–I really enjoyed the monster poem Barbara read. I thought Gail’s scrabble poem was nice.
I like how it had a connection with her sister. I thought it was cool that Paula used her
Rishia Taylor–You realy inspired me to wright poems. Ever since you came… I’ve rote 3 poems and if
I say myself I did pretty good.
Jared Havvin–The poems had creativity. You took the events that happened in your lifes and the things
that happened in your dreams and put it in your poem. That is true genius and I wish
you well on trails.
Nikki– I am just so sad that the bell rang and we couldn’t hear anymore of your beautiful poems.
I think that it was smart to write about things in your life.
Michele– You read them so well with pashion and heat.
Yousef Tursonzadah–I just hoped that we were able to listen to more poems. I liked all of your poems.
I hope you guys can come another day.
Patricia D’Amelio, 8th Grade ELA Teacher, Howitt Middle School, Farmingdale:
Thank you so much for visiting my 8th grade ELA classes. My students had only wonderful feedback
regarding your visit. My students were excited about writing to you and were truly inspired by your poems.
Once again, we had a wonderful day and hope to share our poetry with you soon.
Patricia D’Amelio’s 8th Grade ELA Students, Howitt Middle School, Farmingdale, Wrote Letters of Appreciation:
Amanda Zachmann–Thanks for spending a day in our classroom. You really made us laugh.
Hope you can come back soon.
Kaitlyn Bailey–Thank you for reading your poems. They were great and well appreciated.
Keep writing and keep sharing.
Caeley Looney–You really taught me a lot about the magic and mystery of poetry. Poetry is truly
putting your feelings on a page.
Nicollas–Your a pretty awsom guy. Your poems were rocking. I liked them a lot.
Jessica–I never knew that you could write poetry by writing lists.
Alexia Catania–We really apriciated the hardwork you put into your poems. They were really
interesting and exciting. You made my day.
Samantha Brescia–Your poems were really good. I liked the one about the raccoon the best.
To Phil Reinstein:
Nader–I liked how you memorized the poems.
Molly Retinger–Your poems were fantastic! I thought you were divine. I wish to read more poems of yours.
You made me want to become a poet. Thank you for coming.
Mackenzie–Your poems were great! I was surprised that you memorized your poems.
Jen–It was a privilage to be able to watch you and listen to you. My favorite poem was the word stupid.
Bobby Matson –The poems you read were very good. It makes me want to write poems of my own.
You really inspired me.
To Darren Sardelli:
Taylor Verdi–Your poems were so funny. My favorite was “Don’t eat the Ice Cream.” I like poetry
now more than ever.
Dallas— You made everybody want to laugh. My favorite poem was The Silliest teacher in school.
I thought it was extremely cool.
Anastasia Ruggiero–Your poems were great, each one funnier than the next. You connected with
our class and it was a wonderful experience.
Dylan Loria–Your poems were very funny. I wish you can come back again. If I was writing poetry
I will write the same kind has you. I like to make kids laugh.
To Gayl Teller:
Mackenzie–I loved your poem about your moving day. it was very ironic. I liked how you compared
your life to the birds.
Shannon–I enjoyed your poems and liked how you wrote about your life and your family. You are a
Peter Cohen–Your poem about basketball really inspired me.
Megan–I thought it was cool when you read us the poem about meeting your husband.
Dan Holohan–I thought it was cool how you said any small decision could change our lives.
Dylan Smith–I loved your deep symbolism that means so much more than the words. I hope
to read more of your poems.
Michele DeStefano–Your writing was excellent. I really enjoyed listening to your poems. They
were very descriptive and they told great stories. Your poems captivated
me and pulled me in even more.
Sydney–Your poems were loving,
They showed how you felt
very emotional to,
Well thanks for the great time
You really shined!
Harriet Lieberman, Program Coordinator, Uniondale-Hempstead Senior Center, Uniondale–
Usually the attention span of our members is thirty minutes, so the fact that you read for
over one hour and they were still listening attentively shows how much they enjoyed
Nicole Maresca, Creative Writing Teacher, Mepham High School, Bellmore–
We really enjoyed the enriching experience of listening to original poetic works and hearing directly
from the poets themselves! We would love to have you and a few “strays” return for a more
interactive session where you can distribute prompts and encourage the class to write and share poetry.
Erin–I liked how they each contributed their unique styles.
Sarah–I liked them. They were very lively.
They tried to keep it fresh.
Laura–It was interesting to see how music is often incorporated in poetry.
Nicole–I would have liked to hear more.
Karl–It would be cool to get the opportunity to write something with them.
Andrea Wurthmann, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteer Services,
Daleview Care Center, Farmingdale–
This letter is written on behalf of the residents of Daleview Care Center. We would like to
thank you for taking the time to come to see us and recite your beautiful and meaningful poetry.
Your talent to write and recite are amazing. We truly enjoyed and appreciate you. We look
forward to your next visit.
On 4/29/2011 the residents of Daleview Care center were waiting for us, many with their original poems in their hands that they had composed after our last visit, to read with us. One woman had her roommmate translate the poem she’d written in Italian for her dad in the 1930’s. The poem was read in Italian, and then her roommate read her translation in English. Another resident read a poem by Joe, the lively resident whose photo appeared with Stray Feet visitors at the Christmas celebration in the Farmingdale Observer. Unfortunately, Joe had passed away since our last visit, but the residents applauded loudly for Joe’s poem about his religious devotion. Another resident did an enthusiastic rendition of Kilmer’s poem about trees.
Being bound in wheelchairs did not stifle these people’s vivacity and love of poetry! Gail Goldstein brought her adorable dog Gracie, and shared Gracie and her poem for Gracie. Gail also brought her drum and distributed percussion instruments among the eager residents, who joyously beat out the rhythms in Gail’s poems about dreams, the rain, and wrinkles. Joan Higuchi shared poems of marital bliss, the joys of dancing, and the generation gap evinced in fashions. Arnie Hollander shared his poems about his daughter’s wedding and the complications of marriage. Vicki Iorio shared her poems about her grandma, her love life and being single. Maxine McKenzie-Materowski read the poem that saved her life in the voice from heaven that encouraged her to have hope, and she shared her poems of childhood hardships when she was a motherless child. I read poems about marriage, learning to dance, and grandchildren.
I don’t think we’ll ever forget this visit! We were so moved by the evident power of poetry to arouse the passions and instill a sense of warm community, even among the most incapacitated! We promised to return in June.
For two days in a row, on February 9th and 10th, 2011, Stray Feet participants shared their poems, suggested prompts, and interacted with Deborah Arcuri’s four poetry classes, at Wantagh High School, to help students generate their own dynamic poems. Ellen Pickus shared poems of appreciation for her mother and father and about her dreaded cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. Deborah Hauser presented a feminist perspective in her revisionist version of fairy tales and historic events; even Mona Lisa got to present her viewpoint on McDonald’s. Lloyd Abrams brought his dog Jimmy, as only photo this time, and invoked his doggie verve poetically, along with poems about his grandmother and father-son relationships that students readily related to. Barbara reiher-Meyers showed students her varied approaches to poetry in works about cats, a recluse neighbor,, NY bagels, scanners, and smoking. Stanley Barkan gave a lively presentation of his midrashic writings, which are revisionist poems of the Bible and other texts. He retold the Eden story from male and female perspectives, and even presented a cat’s view of Eden. He shared a love poem for Valentine’s Day and amused all with a book with a huge hole in it as he punned on a book’s capturing the whole view of reality. I shared my poems about the joys of basketball, dancing, self-worth without trophies, family ambivalences, and sexist/reductionistic competitions that judged women by legs and shapely figures in the 50s. Students affirmed that they took a more substantive view of women today, but a few confessed judging by the physical was still important, even for judging guys by their biceps. Gail Goldstein rocked the classroom with her West African drum accompaniment to her poems, and she gave out percussion instruments so students could beat out poetic rhythms as she read poems about the rain and indecent exposure. She also shared a poem by Dunbar for the African-American History celebration, and then presented her own rondeau on raising a child. Her poems on masks and a spider’s perspective suggested to students that they too could assume masks in their poems.
Deborah Arcuri, English teacher, Wantagh High School, wrote:
The rich variety of poems and poets that were offered to the students enhanced their world and gave them a richer experience than I could have offered them alone. After they left, we discussed the poems and poets and many of the students based their last poems on some of the ideas you and your colleagues supplied.
Rebecca Chowske, English Language Arts Director, Wantagh High School, wrote:
Our children are growing up in what the Chinese would call “interesting times.” One need only pick up the newspaper or watch the television to see the pressures they face. I believe, with all my heart, that in the midst of our complicated. competitive and confusing world, poetry becomes critical to survival. Arguably, giving students the power to speak their hearts and minds with clarity and grace is as important as learning arithmetic.
On behalf of Deborah Arcuri and the entire Wantagh High School community, I would like to thank you, Lloyd Abrams, Stanley Barkan, Gail Goldstein, Deborah Hauser, Barbara Reiher-Meyers, Ellen Pickus, and Gayl Teller for sharing your tremendous gifts of mind and spirit.
We deeply appreciate the “Stray Feet” project’s commitment to your art and the Nassau County community. We are equally grateful for your gift of time and expertise to the students of Wantagh High School.
Sharon Kalan, English teacher, Division Avenue High School, Levittown, wrote:
I just wanted to thank you for a most memorable and enlightening experience that you and your friends [Charles Peter Watson, Maria manobianco, Paula Camacho, Lloyd Abrams, Narges Rothermel, ] provided for my students and for myself as well. i wrote an entry of your visit for the district Newsletter and forwarded it to Mrs. Dolechek, an assistant principal.
I also wanted you to know that some of my students used the poems from the various presentations for their poetry projects….
Again, I can’t thank you enough for your dedication, kindness, and sincerity. My students and I are so very grateful for such an experience.
Gayl Teller has partnered with Fran Baglio’s Poetry Class at Glen Cove High School; Four of Deborah Arcuri’s Poetry Classes at Wantagh High School;
Council Senior Center, New York City;
Gayl Teller and Ellen Pickus have partnered with Nicole Maresca’s Creative Writng Class at Mepham High School, Bellmore
We “strayed” to Huntington Hills Center for Health and Rehabilitation, where Ursula Nouza, an active participant in Stray Feet last year but now, unfortunately, due to her recent stroke, is a resident. From her wheelchair, Ursula delighted us with her wit, humor, and wonderful poetry. She belted out about ten poems and made requests for specific poems that she’d remembered we’d written. Formerly unable to join us in readings from the anthology, she read her poems published inToward Forgiveness. From our warm circle of poetry friends, Paula Camacho, Sasha Ettinger, Marilyn Goldsmith, Arnie Hollander, Sue Korman, Maria Manobianco, Ellen Pickus, Barbara reiher-Meyers, and I shared several poems with Ursula and other residents for about two hours. It was tryly a joyous afternoon, and clearly, Ursula was our feature reader! We all wish her a speedy recovery and many more of her clever and heartfelt poems.
Joan Higuchi, Jeff King, Phil Reinstein, Alexandra Reisner, and I “strayed” to Daleview Care Center, in Farmingdale, for about the fifth time. These residents are big poetry fans! Many of them remembered our former visits. Last time, many had even brought poems to read for us. As usual, the residents were enthusiastic and responsive to the readings. They always remind us how poetry accesses our common humanity. Phil Reinstein brought an added pleasure to the afternoon by playing old favorite pop tunes on his accordion and initiating a sing-along.
FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, ABOUT FIFTY STRAY FEET PARTICIPANTS, MANY MAKING MULTIPLE VIVITS, HAVE SHARED THE RICHES OF POETRY WITH MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, SENIOR CITIZENS, AND NURSING HOME RESIDENTS. ON BEHALF OF ALL, MY HEARTY THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR GENEROSITY, COMPASSION, TALENT, AND HUMANITY.
WITH MY LOVE,