Video: Clear skies for poetry in Liberty City

“I am from a place where it does not snow.”

From the top of the Mana Building in Wynwood, this line will greet thousands of passengers as they fly into Miami International Airport. It was written by Nieema Marshall, a third-grader at Orchard Villa Elementary School in Liberty City.

The full poem entitled “I am from a great place,” was written during The Sunroom: Poetry in Schools, a 10-week program that offers creative writing instruction to more than 120 students in two public elementary schools in Liberty City, where resources for arts instruction are often limited.

“I think that we saw that there weren’t a ton of resources going to those schools and wanted to augment that,” explained Laurel Nakanishi, a professional poet who leads the program.

So last year, in collaboration with O, Miami, a month-long poetry festival, she started The Sunroom, with the goal of “creating a space in the school day where kids can feel light and enlightened.”

This year, with two poems from the project painted on rooftops on the MIA flight path — the voices of Liberty City are getting beamed from the Sunroom classroom up to the sun.

Orchard Villa Elementary School and Poinciana Park Elementary School were the two schools chosen for this project. This is because both schools had a need for additional arts instruction and the administrations were supportive and welcoming, Nakanishi explained.

The delightful poems are crafted over the course of 10 weeks. Professional teaching poets come to class once a week and use songs, dance, and writing exercises to help the students find their creative voice.

“One of my favorite moments in the class was when Dana put on a Bob Marley song, and you could just see all of their heads bobbing up and down,” Nakanishi laughed, describing a lesson planned by her co-teacher Dana De Greff, another local writer.

Last week, the students at Orchard Villa Elementary School presented the poems they wrote during Sunroom to their friends and family — showing off their refined poetic voice to their riveted audience.

Here are some of our favorite lines:

“You are like a cookie on my plate.”

  • “Dear Mom” by Ricardo Martinez, 8

“I am from Miami and I like to ride hoverboards … I am from Miami and this is me.”

  • “Where I am from” by Karon Phillips, 9

Want more cuteness? Check out the video above.