Literacy Project students write, choose poems for Food Poetry Walk

  • Nolan Powers reads the poem “Cafe Dream” on the window of Greenfield Coffee as part of the Food Poetry Walk in collaboration between the Greenfield Public Library and Literacy Project in downtown Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The poem “Magpie Haiku x 2 Inverted” hangs in the window of Magpie restaurant as part of the Food Poetry Walk in collaboration between the Greenfield Public Library and the Literacy Project in downtown Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The poem “Pancake?” hangs in the window of Bard’s Place on Main Street as part of the Food Poetry Walk. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2019 10:32:09 PM
Modified: 6/13/2019 10:31:58 PM

GREENFIELD — Maricella Obondo had a dream — she wanted a better life for her children, she wanted to learn English and how to read.

Today, Obondo’s poem, “The Dream,” hangs in the window of The Literacy Project on Bank Row as part of its first Poetry Walk. The walk’s theme is food.

Obondo is a student in Beth Byrne’s HiSET class at The Literacy Project in Greenfield — there is also an office in Orange. HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) is what was formerly known at GED (General Education Diploma).

“When you move from another country to start a new life, you have a dream,” she said. “My childhood was very hard, I was trying to survive every day. When I saw the United States, it felt like the promised land. I’m OK now. I feel at peace here with my kids.”

Rhina Naranjo, who is also in Byrne’s class, wrote “Foster’s,” which hangs in the window at Foster’s Supermarket on Allen Street.

“I never wrote a poem before,” Naranjo said. “This was my first one. In that poem, I wanted to express (my feelings) about Foster’s. A place like that — not too big — has everything I like to shop for and the people inside are very kind.”

The assignment for the Food Poetry Walk, sponsored by The Literacy Project and Greenfield Public Library, was to write about food. Poetry can be found at The Literacy Project, Magpie and Village Pizza, all on Bank Row; Hope & Olive on the corner of Hope and Olive streets; La Petite Cafe, Greenfield Public Library, Brad’s Place, Greenfield Coffee, Hattapon’s and Taylor’s Tavern, all on Main Street; Mesa Verde on Fiske Avenue; Foster’s on Allen Street; and Roberto’s on Federal Street.

“The students visited all the sites first,” Literacy Project Executive Director Judith Roberts said. “Some wrote original poems and others researched and found poems they wanted to share.”

Roberts said, for instance, one student decided to use Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Pancake,” to hang at Brad’s Place diner on Main Street.

Roberts said The Literacy Project serves adult students who want to take the high school equivalency test. She said the organization encourages them to go on, at the very least, to community college.

“They study reading, writing, science, math and social studies,” she said. “Most of them fall in love with reading and writing. Some have never done it.”

She said many students are citizens, while others are immigrants and refugees.

“This is a sort of awakening for them,” she said. “And to have their work for all to see is just wonderful.”

Roberts said students typically arrive at The Literacy Project after a metaphorical light bulb comes on in their heads.

“They have decided they want a better life for themselves and their families,” Roberts said.

All Literacy Project programs are free to those who want to enroll, and they are open to all.

“There are so many reasons why someone hasn’t graduated from high school,” Roberts said. “Opportunity, someone is denied education in their war-torn country, interrupted education.”

She said once a non-English speaker is fluent in English, he or she can take HiSET classes.

The Literacy Project has published four anthologies of students’ writing over the past decade, but Roberts said she would love to see the Poetry Walk become an annual event.

“And, it’s important that we partner with the library, which provides access to books and more to everyone,” she said. “All of our students get library cards.”

Roberts said it was empowering for students to see their original work hanging throughout the city.

“This project was exciting and fun for our students,” she said. “It will be up until the beginning of next week.”

Francesca Passiglia, assistant head of borrower services at Greenfield Public Library, said she is excited about the walk.

“We’d love to keep doing it every year with The Literacy Project,” Passiglia said. “We’re always trying to make these types of community connections.”

The library sponsors a poetry walk during the Greenfield Winter Carnival, as well.

“We took it slow this first time around,” she said. “There was no pressure on anyone. We just wanted students to enjoy themselves. It’s so moving to see them put so much into writing or choosing poems.”

Upcoming Literacy Project fundraiser

The Literacy Project will present the “Bloomsday” literary festival Sunday, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Main Street. The event is a fundraiser for the organization and helps support programs like the Poetry Walk. There will be Irish music and readings from James Joyce’s, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “Dubliners,” and “Ulysses.”

For information about The Literacy Project, call 413-774-3934 or email: info@literacyproject.org. Also visit: www.literacyproject.org


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