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May 31, 2003

Poetry eases parting for Clarke longtimers

From: Hampshire Gazette, MA - May 31, 2003

By RYAN DAVIS, Staff Writer

NORTHAMPTON - Some students at Clarke School for the Deaf have been at the Round Hill Road campus for most of their lives, so when the time comes to graduate and move on to new schools, the transition can be highly emotional.

Several students shared their feelings about their departure from Clarke, or the imminent graduation of their friends, during the school's final Poetry Cafe Thursday morning.

Students usually graduate around age 16 from Clarke's middle school. Most then are mainstreamed, with many attending their hometown high school in ninth or 10th grade.

"I hug my friends and tears stream down my face / I take one last look and keep it in my soul," read 15-year-old Erin Garlock, who will be mainstreamed into Northampton High School in the fall.

"Clarke School for the Deaf will always be in my heart / Now I am walking away / I have to say those last two words: Good Bye."

Begun four years ago by middle school teacher Janet Bloom, the Poetry Cafe is now held three times a year for students to present their original work to an audience and build their writing skills.

"I really love it. It's a lot of fun," said Garlock, who participated in all the Poetry Cafes while she was a student.

"It feels good to say a poem in front of everyone," said her sister, Kathryn Garlock, 17, who is graduating from Clarke this spring and will attend a high school in New York. "I feel sad that this is the last one of the year."

The final Poetry Cafe had a theme of "Hello and Goodbye" and mixed somber reflections on the end of school with lighthearted (and elaborately costumed) lip sync performances of songs like "Surfin' USA" and "Summer Nights" by students, and "Margaritaville" by teachers.

"Every year it's grown and gotten more elaborate and involved," said Bloom.

Many of the poems touched on common themes: leaving school, friendship and the coming summer.

"When I leave this world behind, / I shall take with me such wonderful memories, / Of the love I knew, I received from you," wrote 16-year-old Emma Wiegand of Stamford, Conn., who is graduating from Clarke this year.

The cafe was emotional not only for Clarke students but also for students like Uma Ajit Gokhale, 23, of Maharashtri, India, a member of the Smith College/Clarke graduate teacher program who has worked with students throughout the year.

"I have loved this place every moment that I was here ... and Clarke School has loved me back," her poem read in part.

Though school's end can be difficult in this close-knit community, many students said events like Poetry Cafe make it easier.

"I like when people talk about the friends and families and feelings," said Jasmine Batista, 16, of Springfield, who is graduating and will attend Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical High School in Springfield.

© 2003 Daily Hampshire Gazette