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Bucks County Poets Laureate Create FREE Poetry Handbook for Local Educators

The handbook, edited by four former Laureates, is designed to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills, and understand poetry’s practical applications.

Four former Bucks County Poets Laureate: Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, Katherine Hahn Falk, Luray Gross, and Laren McClung along with Bucks County Community College Professor Dr. Ethel Rackin, recently joined forces to publish, Fire Up the Poems: Poetry Prompts for Teachers by Bucks County Poets Laureate.

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 a former high school teacher, editor, Mary Jo 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 Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson to write poetry.” Jerome continues, “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.

According to director Ethel Rackin, these programs “play a vital role in fostering the literary arts across Bucks County and beyond.”

Looking ahead, the Bucks County Poets Laureate hope to turn this handbook into a larger project. Through the use of online PDFs, audio versions of the prompts, and more, the poets’ goal is to benefit even more educators and students in Bucks County and beyond.

For more information about the handbook, Bucks County Poet Laureate Program, or the High School Poet of the Year competition, visit bucks.edu/poets or contact Dr. Ethel Rackin at ethel.rackin@bucks.edu.