Four former Bucks County Poet Laureates – Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, Katherine Hahn Falk, Luray Gross and Laren McClung – along with Bucks County Community College professor Dr. Ethel Racken, recently joined forces to publish Fire Up the Poems: Poetry Prompts for Teachers by Bucks County Poet Laureates.
Funded by the Bucks County Community College Foundation, Fire Up the Poems is designed to provide valuable, novel and accessible poetry lessons to local Bucks County language arts educators at no cost. The prompts aim to help increase students’ appreciation of the art of poetry and strengthen critical thinking skills. The handbook models what poetry in the real world looks like by sharing information about how and why poets write, how poetry can create a movement for change, and how poetry enables a wider understanding of ideas.
As a poet and former high school teacher and editor, LoBello Jerome said that she “knew a book like this would be useful in the classroom. I wanted students to connect with poetry in the real world, to experience poetry as a method of individual expression and as a vehicle to inspire change. You don’t have to be a Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson to write poetry.”
She added, “And since I was Poet Laureate during COVID-19 shutdowns and could not share in-person with students in school workshops, Fire Up the Poems seemed absolutely necessary. And then Bucks generously distributed the book free to county teachers. What a gift.”
The project also aims to raise awareness of Bucks County Community College’s two poetry programs – the Bucks County Poet Laureate program, the longest-running program of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania, in place since 1977; and the High School Poet of the Year competition.