Magdalena Gomez
Creating with Culture

Magdalena Gomez is a performance poet, originally from NYC, who has been working recently in Boston. Through Waterways, she has been able to return to her roots in the Bronx.

Her work with students addresses the second New York State Learning Standard for English. Her students discussed musical elements and multiple levels of meaning in poetic expression. Her emphasis on performance addresses the first Learning Standard for Arts: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts. She brings to the classroom an awareness of the social, cultural, economic and political conditions expressed through poetry, addressing the fourth Learning Standard for Arts: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts.

A Few Notes I Wrote After the Workshop
by Magdalena Gomez

Orientation and Introduction... Dialogue on Writing Interests

Students were introduced to the following poets:
Joy Harjo (I Give You Back)
Jimmy Baca Santiago (Excerpt from Martin)
Sandra Maria Esteves (In Praise of Live)
Langston Hughes (I, too)

Discussion of Poetry in terms of mood, feelings evoked, messages conveyed. Some background information on each poet. We focused on the territory of feelings and emotions in the world of creativity:

The uses of poetry, creative writing and other arts in overcoming fear, peer pressure; using writing as a tool to deal with unresolved issues or unexpressed emotions as in the case of connecting with someone we miss because of death or other separation; the use of memories in creation; using poetry as a tool for empowerment, self-expression, building community, healing.

We listened to music as a tool for embracing the muse: The STUDENTS first reflected on and named uses of music:
to have feeling; to escape (release); music makes you high; to relax; thinking about the past; soul healing
depending on type of music, it will make you feel different ways; to escape from loneliness
to think about the future

We then listened to an introspective work:
Cristofori's Dream (David Lanz). We wore blindfolds so that we could enter the music more deeply, without distractions. We listened for the "story" inside of the music. Afterwards we began our writing:

Exercise One:
After listening to the music blindfolded, we removed blindfolds, remained in silence, and wrote all of the images we saw, felt, remembered. (Writing as reflection) We shared our writing with one another.

Exercise Two
We wrote as we listened to joyful steel drum music. (Writing spontaneously in the moment) Again, we listened for the story in the music.

Exercise Three
We experimented with writing to a familiar tune with lyrics to see what feelings, memories or ideas would be evoked. Respect by Aretha Franklin. By this point the students were ready to dance; we took a five minute break.

After break, we played some theater movement and vocalization games using some of the same music, as well as new selections.

This was an introduction to creating characters and improvised dialog.

We discussed the value of oral tradition.

Following the games we returned to oral sharing of our writing. We then worked with theater improvisation games to introduce the idea of "point of view" and "voice".

All of the students participated in the writing, movement and theater work.

Participant Excerpts
Participants were told to forget all the rules: grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. to write fearlessly and free style.

(Exercise One)
The music makes me feel so relaxed, that every thing comes at once in mind, likes, memories, sadness like holding some one in your arms and not wanting to let them go. It also makes you falling in sleep, with your mind clearly, like escape loneliness while listening to it.

(Exercise Two)
It makes some one or any one want to get up and expose their emotion and feeling. It's like if you have such memories, from the past.
Arturo V.

(Exercise One)
I was loneliness with nobody at side of me
no friends and having no family
suffer with pain
and it's a damn shame
I'm the only one
but at the end I have
a loving caring in myself
but doesn't matter I still
suffer and wish
this never happen to me

(Exercise Two) - Steel Drums
I feel like in a paradise island
with a lot of people dancing
everyone is having a great time
like I never be here before then
the next day I feel like a king
with girls and eating fruits.
It looks like all the people like
me and I think it means that I'm
then good.

Lockert W.

(Exercise One)
As I listen to the music,
the way in which it was played,
reminds me of my last relationship,
that I had.

The good times we shared,
the bad times we've had,
the love we had.

This type of music also reminds
me of the horror of waking up
one morning, seeing my mother dying
for air.

Allen P.

A girl dancing in a forest covered by snow and ice. She's dancing on a frozen pond. A young man walks by and is hypnotized by her beauty as well as her dancing. Not really on a search for love but comes across her and is overwhelmed. Watches her dance and joins in, which starts the beginning of their life.
Angelina Rosario

(Exercise One)
wind blowing
flower petals flying everywhere
little girl
water falls
little girl spinning and spinning
and running
high up on a hill (or mountain)

(Exercise Two)
animals everywhere

Chinese people
eating a really big dinner
like if someone just got married
children playing
family together

(Exercise Three)
Donuts and Coffee shop
bugging out
jumping around
singing in the shower

Kathy G.
(Exercise One)
Two people destined to be together had a terrible fight causing them to go in separate directions. Then the man had been in an accident and been injured badly. The lady rushes to see him and is in shock because of condition. She sat with him each night sharing memories with the m an she loved while knowing he wasn't really there but hoping for a miracle. Soon it has come to turn where she was asked to make a horrible decision. She thought it out over and over and finally come about her answer. She had to let him go. She sat and watched them pull the plug. Now facing the worst pain she's ever had to endure she is crying. She claims that she had to die but only her body was left to live. Years went by and though she was still deeply saddened she finally realized she had to keep going in order to maintain her sanity. And so she lived.

Piano - to set surroundings
Violin - to set mood

(Exercise Two)
I'm on the island of St. Thomas dancing in a group of my friends. Family I never knew came about and I am happy. Everybody's dancing vigorously and are all excited. I've never felt how they make me feel until now because I was told they were dead. A whole new chapter in my life has opened making me, a person who has never felt whole feel complete.

(Exercise Three)
A bunch of women together stating their peace. Telling all those children trying to be men to grow up and treat them right. Also to give them the respect they deserve.

Free Association Poem:
Finding a story in the music

Fired Down Below, The Native Steel Drum

Block parties
Spanish food
many people
a nice day
palm trees


Placing ourselves inside the music; what are you doing inside the music

I am an outsider who should feel at home in this land I call My mother but I don't come from here. Seeing sights never seen before h as me in awe over the customs and traditions of this land. As I look over myself watching everything in sight no motions are made, just my face full of delight. I see a beautiful woman sitting not far away. A smile from her face could brighten up even the dullest day. I think she noticed me for a minute. Yes! No, I was mistaken.

I see myself once again too shy to approach a beautiful woman.

but maybe today will be different. I approach her with only words from my heart. A conversation builds.

Whata ya know . . . I see myself changing.

Experimenting with Similes

rough like gravel
smooth as your fingernail
rough as sandpaper
as light as an empty paper cup
as brown as dirt
beautiful like art

Experimenting with Fantasy
I was not always on this planet. I come from another planet. My species is vastly populating. Increase of my population is tearing my planet down. We need more space for living, so we decided to acquire earth. You would never know who's from my planet on earth. We disguised ourselves too perfectly. The take over of the earth is coming.

Magdalena this is Vijay I didn't talk a lot, because I didn't grow up in a popular place or country. Where I came from I had no friends, I didn't go to a real school. I have to go to the farm every day, I didn't have much communication with people. Right now I am shy to talk and also I don't like to make comment of people. I am very honest person.


Working with Sea Shells as Muse

Kathy G.

My shell is hard like an erect male
It is pointy as a porcupine
It makes sound like a cool breeze on the ocean front
My shell is like me
calm in my sleep

Lockert W.
I see the sun so bright and clear
rising in the morning
shining in my hair
creatures both great and small
are waking up
for a brand new day

Birds singing songs
of peace
and love in the atmosphere

we all grow to love

Angel R.

I see the ocean and what used to be
a hermit crab with spikes
to protect it
now I see
seagulls while me and my pops
chillin' on a fishing boat
in sheepshead bay
me throwin' used bait
to the seagulls
watching them fly
down; and catch it

A Death Scene and Funeral in the Barrio

This was the first time I have ever seen some one get shot. It happened on July 4, 1994 I was chillin' with my boy, and we were playing with the fireworks and a drug dealer I knew he had this crack head shot for trying to steal his sons ring I saw the whole thing every one ran down the street I could see the crack head in a pool of blood I watched this whole thing as if it were a movie before my boyz mom told me to get inside.

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