Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Am Writing My Name

The French poet Edmond Jabes once wrote: "When, as a child, I wrote my name for the first time, I realized I was beginning a book."

When a child learns to write their name they then write it everywhere: on the sidewalk, on the wall, in their pudding. Get the picture?

I learned this best from my own kids (my son continues to "sign" his signature on those things that belong to him, and also on some things that don't). The other day my fourteen year old daughter was on her hands and knees in the street (during a block party) writing her name on the concrete in yellow and pink. 

Do we ever outgrow our fascinations with our names? To this day I sometimes with just the tip of my finger scribble my name in the dust of my desktops, in the breadcrumbs of the dinner table. Enough about me.

Here's a poem that says what I'm trying to say better than I am able to say it.

I Am Writing My Name

I am writing my name
across the sky, across the clouds,

I am writing my name
across the street, across my rooftop,

I am writing my name
across my arm, across my education,

because I want to leave a mark.

Quentin S.
3rd Grade
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

Poets and graffiti artists both—Marcus Was Here..... Johnny Was Here....

We all just want to "leave a mark."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When I Get the Money


Gold, diamonds, platinum will be mine.
I'll buy Hammer's old house and drink fine wine.

I'll give money to the poor in Mozambique.
I'll buy the biggest diamond, the diamond of Mystique.

When I get the money I'll give a tenth to Yahweh.
I'll buy my own city and create a day called Ray Day.

When I get the money I'll buy me a statue in my image.
I'll hire a historian to retrace my family's lineage.

When I get the money I'll tell the world, "I got money!"
I'll bring Fred Sanford back to life and make him call his son Dummy.

When I get the money I'll spend it all on roast pheasant.
But I'll still have money left over to give to the poorest peasant.

Raynard P.
Cody High School
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

This is just to say, to all who read without complaint my steady stream of emails and Facebook messages that landed in in-boxes all across the city and country, that InsideOut was on the receiving end of $24,905 US dollars during our latest fundraising campaign.

We couldn't have done any of this without all of you who reached into your own pockets and helped spread the word, for us, about us.

Thanks for making it all possible.

We can't thank you enough.

To borrow from another poem, "What Money Can't Buy," written by Veronica G. of Southwestern High School:

"What I want,/ money can't buy/...a few people/ to stand by my side."

We appreciate your good company.

Most sincerely yours,

Peter Markus
Senior Writer
InsideOut Literary Arts Project

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Red Drum


Hidden in my heart
is a giant imagination.

Hidden in that giant imagination
there is a long poem.

Hidden in that long poem
is a tiny baby crying for love.

Hidden in that tiny baby
is a gray clock telling the time.

Hidden in that gray clock
is my joyful life.

Hidden in my joyful life
is my big family.

Hidden in my big family
is my huge heart.

Hidden in my huge heart
is a little red drum keeping me alive.

Arianna B.
3rd Grader
Golightly Educational Center
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

Thanks to all those who were able to participate or who helped spread the word about the Community Foundation Challenge Fund. It was a terrific show of strength and generosity towards not only InsideOut but to the entire Southeast Michigan Arts Community.

To all of you who make up the BIG FAMILY in the JOYFUL LIFE that is INSIDEOUT, know too that you are the BIG RED DRUM that helps keep us and our song and OUR LONG POEM alive and beating.

And the beat goes on, and on, thanks to you,
Peter Markus

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Time is Now


My face
is a book

of invisible
scars. Each 

scar tells
a story.

Each story

Back when I
was small.

Alex G.
Southwestern High School
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

This bit of tenderness from a six-foot tall, puffy-faced high school student who didn't like to talk. 

I wish I'd written this, yes, for sure. 

But I'm glad that, as a kid, I didn't see myself in this particularly skewed way—or maybe I did but I simply didn't know how to put words to what I was seeing—a way that made Alex, when he looked into his mirror, see a face that was "a book of invisible scars."

Only the poet in us knows what I like to call "the real me, the one nobody sees." I borrow this line from Sandra Cisnersos' The House on Mango Street and use it to get students to look closely, to dig deeper, to feel and then speak and make art from that feeling.

Sometimes that "real me" is larger than life, a spiritual giant of sorts.

Take a look at this poem by Quin'dara, one of those rare students who was born to be a poet.


The real me
that nobody sees
is walking
on mid air.

When the wind
blows hard
I do not fall.

There is always a piece
of mid-air wind
that I alone
am walking on.

No one understands
that I am the one
bringing the wind
its destination.

The wind stands over
and watches over
everyone. I am like
another God

that nobody sees
walking across the sky.

Quin'dara G.
Southwestern High School
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

Once again, I wish I'd written this.

I hope you'll consider making a donation, TODAY, yes, the TIME is NOW, to the InsideOut Literary Arts Project through the Community Foundation's challenge grant. Go the website NOW (the site goes live at 10:00 a.m. EST) and stretch your gift to InsideOut by 50%.


Help more poets like Quin'dara see and give voice to "the real me." 

Help more students like Alex G. give themselves permission to say what they otherwise wouldn't be able to say.

That's what we're all about here at InsideOut.

What is inside us, waiting unseen and hiding unheard, needs to be brought out.

As real as I can be, 
Peter Markus

P.S. A big THANK YOU to all of you who read these email pleas and THANKS to EVERY ONE of you, whether you can donate now or not, I've appreciated all the kind words written and spoken back to me in response to the words of these InsideOut students.

A Baseball as Big as This


A baseball
as big
as this
could knock
a hole
through the
house where
the president
lives. You
could play
catch with 
God with
a baseball
as big
as this. 
And after
you are
done playing
with it
you can
throw it
back to
the sky.

Kwame, 4th Grade
Fitzgerald Elementary
InsideOut Student
Detroit Public Schools

This is Kwame's written response to Robert Moskowitz's painting "Hard Ball III" which is a part of the permanent collection at The Detroit Institute of the Arts.

If you've been to the DIA, it's the painting of a silhouetted pitcher in the background and a baseball in the forefront that is, as the poem suggests, very BIG.

When I first looked at this painting, all I thought of was a rising fastball too high to hit. 

Kwame sees this image beyond the sport itself: it becomes a cosmic image in his hands, something akin to the sun and moon.

I wish I saw the world through his eyes.

I wish I'd written this.

To support more student writing about art (and baseball) I hope you'll consider participating in the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Challenge Grant.

The challenge begins TOMORROW at 10 a.m., August 18th, and will end as soon as the $1,000,000 is exhausted, so it's crucial for supporters of InsideOut to go online to take advantage of these available matching funds.

More info can be found here: http://www.cfsem.org/

To learn more about InsideOut go here:http://insideoutdetroit.org/index.php

Remember: first pitch is TOMORROW, August 18th, at 10 a.m. sharp. 

It's a race for the prize. Help us hit one out of the park.

Best wishes from the bullpen,
Peter Markus

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Love Is a Big Blue Cadillac

Love Is a Big Blue Cadillac 

that never runs 
out of gas. It drives 
all the way down 
to Mississippi 
to see his wife. 
I watch them kiss. 

When they kiss,
the sun rises 
like a cherry
into the sky 
turning the whole 
universe red.

         These words, written by Treshon, a third-grader at Fitzgerald Elementary, define a love that all of us should aim for. Treshon’s vision for Love (in the uppercase) is the bull’s-eye all of us should shoot our arrows towards. It’s a love that lasts because it “never runs out of gas.” It's a love that goes out of the way, beyond the limits of reason, “it drives all the way down to Mississippi,” for a simple kiss. That kiss, witnessed as it is by the speaker of this poem, has the power to transform the world where this kiss is lipsticked, where this kiss is forever planted onto the page. The love that leads up to this kiss is a love that is more powerful and permanent than ourselves: it is bigger than me, the poem tells us, it is bigger than us all: it's a spiritual love that can move mountains, that can take a crumb of bread and feed those of us who come with an open mouth and open heart to take in this poem's power. Love, according to this poem, love, in the eyes of this young poet, is cosmic, it can summon the sun out of hiding so that the whole universe is burning red with love, love, love.

         I love in the poem’s final line the precision of and the placement of that word, “whole.” Not just “my” world, “my” universe, not just the singular, the solipsistic “Me, Myself, & I” that stands at the center of so much poetry. But the WHOLE universe, says the big heart of this child. Because love, Treshon wants us to know, is what connects us all to skies that our eyes have never before seen. And it seems to me that in times like these, more than ever before, we need this kind of love, we need these words—these acts—of love.

Unlike Treshon's big blue Cadillac, the InsideOut Literary Arts Project runs on a gas that needs refueling. If you think poems like Treshon's are vital to us as a cultural community, I hope you'll consider participating in our latest fundraising opportunity to add fuel and fire to our engine. 

On August 18th, beginning at 10:00 a.m., all gifts donated to the InsideOut Literary Arts Project through the Community Foundation website will be half-matched. A donation of $25, for example, ends up as $37.50 in the InsideOut gas tank.

You can keep the Cadillac running. You can spread the love.

Every little kiss counts.

Go here for more info about InsideOut: http://insideoutdetroit.org/index.php
Go here for more info about the Community Foundation Challenge Grant: http://www.cfsem.org/initiatives-and-programs/arts-culture-challenge
Make this page your homepage to remind you about the 18th: http://insideoutdetroit.org/

Affectionately yours and rolling towards the interstate,
Peter Markus

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Wish I'd Written This


I have a river
in my back yard.

The sun is a fish
in the sky.

My dad likes
to catch fish

with his feet.
There is a fish

that likes to jump
on the moon.

At night
the fish creates fire

by hammering
two moon rocks together

with a fishing pole
so he can cook himself up

in the morning
for breakfast.

Javon, 5th Grade
Fitzgerald Elementary
Detroit Public Schools

If you think poems like this one need to be written and heard, I hope you'll consider pitching in on August 18th to keep the river flowing.

Click here to donate to the InsideOut Literary Arts Project and watch your gift grow thanks to the Community Foundation Challenge Grant. http://www.cfsem.org/insideout-literary-arts-project

If fishes were wishes, I'd have a bucket filled with gold.

Fish on,
Peter Markus