A Sprinkling of Poetry

Between now and the end of the year, you have a new reason to go for a walk…in the rain. Thanks to creative school children who submitted poems in April, and thanks to volunteers: Sara Smith, Joanna Dunn, Miriam Lapson, Asa Rosenmeier, and Jessica Lomelli, and thanks to respected poet, educator, and friend, Matthew Burgess, our first round of poetry has been installed throughout Belmont!

Each of the winning poems had an line or phrase extracted from the poem and painted on the sidewalk with invisible paint – visible only when wet. You can see them when it rains – look for them near common school routes to elementary and the middle schools, all are within a 5 minute walk for a school-aged child.

See them before they disappear!


A special thanks to everyone from Butler, Wellington, and Winn Brook Elementary Schools who submitted a poem for this project. We have selected the poem lines (below) for installation.

Due to some changes in the funding, we were able to select more poems than originally budget (yea!), however we will hold off on installing in order to coincide with the fall and spring “Walk to School Days” for 2017-18. In the meantime, please enjoy these lines and congratulations to all those who took an artistic leap of faith!


“An apple looks like the sun

setting red on the horizon.”

– Nina

“When the sky streaks with stars

and the morning awakes”

– Clarisse

“It’s spring when the world is raindrop-wet

and the ocean is as blue as it can be”

– Maryam

“Spring, the damp grass

slowly grows”

– Johnny

“[the blue jay] did a quick turn

then a quick twist

then he went on his

way into the mist.”

– Madeleine

“I plant a garden

in the spring.

What good things

will it bring?”

– Bella

“worms rule the underground.”

– Clodagh

“the sun shines bright rays of light,

the ground grows mud-luscious”

– Brandon

“And when the flowers bloom

my heart goes BOOM!”

– Ellie

“I see bees buzzing in the flower fields.”

– Eliza


everybody chugging lemonade

in their faces and when

spring bre——–ack is here

almost everyone is lugging

their luggage.”

– A Butler Poet


Shout out to All our Poets!

Acknowledging all our poets who took time to explore words and share them!

Students from Butler, Wellington, and Winn Brook – thanks for participating!

Aléa, Anurag, Bella, Brandon, Bryan, Carder, Cate, Chloe, Clarisse, Clodagh, Damir, Dasha, Eda, Elias, Elinor, Eliza, Ellie, Grant, Johnny, Lilja, Lilly, Lisa, Lucia, Lucy, Madeleine, Maia, Maryam, Michelle, Nathalie, Nikos, Nina, Noah, Noah, Paola, Quincy, Sheila, Steffi, Tess, Tessa, Zach

[in Just-]

"Enormous Smallness" by Matthew Burgess, Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
balloonMan          whistles


Submit a Poem!

All elementary school students in the Belmont public schools are invited to submit a poem!

Our mud-luscious spring theme is inspired by the poem, “In Just-” by e. e. cummings and by our guest poet-judge, Matthew Burgess and his work with students in the New York elementary schools.

Parents and Teachers:  Find Matthew’s complete lesson plan for our spring poetry contest here: When the World is Mud-Luscious A New Lesson for An Old Favorite.

Contest Guidelines

Students should meet this criteria:

  • Original poem
  • Belmont public elementary school student
  • Complete entry form

Deadline: Entries must be received by Friday, April 14th – later than 3 p.m.

Poems will selected based on originality, conditions of site location, and thematic connections. Poems may be reproduced for the project in part or in complete form at the discretion of the judges. Students are encouraged to use the lesson plan.

There are two ways to submit a poem with an Entry Form.

  1. Email your poem in a text document – preferred entry – (plain text, Word, or Google Doc) to belmontrainingpoetry@gmail.com. Please use any spacing or fonts you like – we will do our best to ensure the integrity of the poem in reproduction. Excerpts of poems may be used for the project.
  2. Submit a paper entry. You may send or drop off those entries to
    ATTN: Butler PTA – Kate Bowen, Daniel Butler Elementary School, 90 White St., Belmont MA 02478.
    **All entries must include an Entry Form.**

Deadline: Entries must be received by Friday, April 14th – later than 3 p.m.

Ideas for Parents & Teachers


Our spring theme is inspired by the poem, “In Just-” by e. e. cummings and by our guest poet-judge, Matthew Burgess and his work with students in the New York elementary schools.

This is meant to provide context if you are inspired to create a poem related to this theme. Whether you are a parent or a teacher or a student, we hope these ideas might inspire new ways of looking at writing poetry. Submissions do not have to be made from this lesson – all submissions will be accepted.

An overview of & excerpts from Matthew’s lesson follows (or follow link to full):

“The following lesson plan works well with Enormous Smallness as an accompanying text, and I use these two pages as a lead-in to the writing exercise. It is easily adaptable for any grade level, from kindergarten to college.

  1. I start by reading “[in Just-]” with the class. I like to read it once aloud, and then ask for student volunteers. It’s not the easiest poem to read, but hesitations and pauses can be helpful in highlighting some of the unusual moves that the poem makes. If possible, project the poem onto the wall or board so that students can see and discuss the spatial arrangement of words on the page.
  1. As necessary, I pose questions about the poem to stimulate conversation: How does the speaker of the poem feel about springtime? Can you remember a time when you liked to play in mud puddles? Where does Cummings play with words or break rules? What do you notice about how the poet puts the words on the page?
  1. Allowing the discussion to follow its course, I intermittently identify the literary devices that I want to highlight and write them on the board. These can be easily adapted to suit age level or unit. For example, when a student points out Cummings’ use of “mud-luscious” or “puddle-wonderful,” I might say he is “squishing words together,” or I could use the term “kenning.” For the purposes of the writing activity that follows, I generally emphasize:

1. Wordplay (squishing words together, kenning, parataxis, etc.)

2. Onomatopoeia (“wee”)

3. Play of form (free verse, composition by field, “projective verse”)

  1. Without becoming too bogged down in technicalities, I shift into a collaborative lead-in activity. Using a large sheet of paper or a SMART Board, I make two columns. I ask students to brainstorm “things” they associate with spring, and then, in the first column, I write their suggestions in the singular form. (For example, flowers become flower, umbrellas become umbrella.)

Note: you can use fall, winter, or summer as well, depending on the season, the mood, or student choice.

  1. Then we brainstorm a list of adjectives that convey enthusiasm or excitement, and I write these in the second column. When working with second-graders, I ask for words that are similar to “wonderful” or “really great.”
  1. Once both columns are full, I write (or project) the following sentence: “It’s spring / when the world is ____-____!” I ask for volunteers to take a word from the first column and “squish it together” with a word from the second column. Students immediately sense the spark as you write things like “grass-fantastic,” “sunshine-spectacular,” “rain-amazing,” or “coconut-preposterous.”
  1. When the energy shifts and the “making impulse” kicks in, I keep the directions as simple as possible and try to float a feeling of “permission” in the air. Some students need more clarification or guidance, while others need to be set free immediately. The basic instructions are:

a. Write a poem about spring (or summer, fall, winter) inspired by E. E. Cummings’ example. Using the brainstormed lists—or inventing your own—squish some words together and play with the placement of the words on the page. See if you can include an example of onomatopoeia like E. E.’s “wee.”

b. Think about what you see, smell, hear, touch, and taste in this season. If you’re not sure how to get started, or if you like this opening line, begin with: “It’s spring / when the world is _____-_____” and then keep going! You don’t need to decide what you are going to write about—just jump in and let your pencil find it.

If you are working with very young writers or writers with special needs, the poem can be simplified to a short list of hyphenated words. I have collaborated with the illustrator of Enormous Smallness, Kris Di Giacomo, on versions of this lesson that incorporate a visual element.”

More Poetry?!

Photo Credit: Jeremy DellerThis project is possible with support from the Belmont Cultural Council, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

A collaboration in part with Mass Poetry, each poem costs approximately $75 to install, with community-provided poems and volunteer support. Our small grant affords 5 poems to be placed around the community, while also covering project-related materials and a small honorarium for our guest poet judge, Matthew Burgess.

Of course, I would love to see poems everywhere this spring!The possibility of including more poems will depend on volunteer time to cut stencils and install the. If you would like to have additional poems sited by your elementary school students, please contact Kate Bowen at belmontrainingpoetry@gmail.com to discuss.

Earn Community Service


We are looking for talent to help cut stencils for the poems between April 14th and April 21st. You can earn community service credit hours for the time you help cuts stencils and install them, while learning a creative process. Contact Kate Bowen to participate: belmontraininpoetry@gmail.com.

Meet Matthew J. Burgess

Matthew Burgess teaching in NYC Public Schools

Matthew Burgess is an Assistant Professor at Brooklyn College. He is the author of a poetry collection, Slippers for Elsewhere (UpSet Press, 2014), a children’s book, Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings (Enchanted Lion Books, 2015), and he recently edited Dream Closet: Meditations on Childhood Space (Secretary Press, 2016). Burgess has been a poet-in-residence in New York City public schools since 2001, and is a contributing editor of Teachers & Writers Magazine. He received an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College and a PhD in Literature from the CUNY Graduate Center.

Our theme this spring is inspired by Matthew’s lesson plan for “in Just-” – a perfect poem for the season and for our community, which is just around the corner from e. e. cumming’s childhood home. We hope it will inspire new writers or new ways of looking at previous writings. Please know that all poems will be accepted.

Enormous Smallness has been named one of the Best Children’s Books of 2015″ by The Washington PostThe Boston Globe, and The Huffington PostMinneapolis Public Radio calls Enormous Smallness one of the year’s Best Books to Give (And Get), The Wall Street Journalcalls it a “biographical standout for 2015, and Booklist features it on their Lasting Connections 2015. Perhaps most amazingly, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings includes Enormous Smallness on her list of “The Best 15 Books of 2015.”

Thanks to Matthew J. Burgess for his time in reviewing submissions and collaborating on this project. His enthusiasm for poetry and our youth is the stuff of hope. I am so grateful to know him and have an opportunity to introduce him to my community.