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A few miles from where I live in upstate New York, workers at the Syracuse Pottery make pots out of the red clay they mine from the surrounding hills. The work is tedious, each wet slab of clay pressed by hand on a spinning wheel. Later, the pots are fired in huge kilns. The smaller of these clay pots can be purchased for fifty cents--fifteen cents if there is a slight flaw. I go for the flawed pots and bring armloads of them into classrooms and after-school programs. These pots help the children write clay poems.
Before we write, I lead the children into a calm and focused state. I do this by turning on calm music. Then I give each of the children a peacock feather to balance in the palm of their hand. This is easy to do if you keep your eyes focused on the eye of the feather. Some of the children are no taller than the peacock feather they balance. The calming is instant, visible in the children's eyes, the smiles on their faces. "If you can balance a peacock feather," I say, "you can write a poem." With older children I sometimes use brooms, chairs and small ladders. "If you can balance a chair, you can write a story. It's all in the focusing."
After the children have selected their own pots, I tell them that they themselves are clay pots. I have every reason to tell …