On Thursday, May 23rd, Porsha Olayiwola, author of i shimmer sometimes, too, took center stage alongside two other at WriteBoston’s annual fundraiser, Pros&Conversation.

Olayiwola was joined by Carmen Fields, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Going Back to T-Town, and Dr. Kimberly Parker, author of Literacy is Liberation and Director of Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard. This accomplished panel of storytellers had a conversation with our own Teens in Print journalists: Sandro Tavares, senior at TechBoston Academy, and Nahla Criswell, eighth grader at Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy.

Headshot of Porsha Olayiwola
Cover of Porsha Olayiwola's book,

About i shimmer sometimes, too

In recent years, more and more teachers have taken up the call to provide their students with culturally responsive and sustaining texts. Porsha Olayiwola’s poetry collection, i shimmer sometimes, too, is a powerful resource for any teacher doing this work. Founder of the Roxbury Poetry Festival and currently the poet laureate for the city of Boston, Porsha grounds her work in her experiences as a Black queer woman and also identifies as a performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to explore issues within and across different diasporas.

How to use this book in your classroom

 i shimmer sometimes, too offers over forty poems in less than eighty pages, meaning that each text is an accessible length for a range of students. If looking for mentor texts to study specific craft elements like figurative language and different poetic structures, Olayiwola’s collection offers a range of styles and options. There are longer pieces like “THE BUS STOP IS CROWNED MOTIF” and “I AM NEITHER THE POEM, NOR THE WORDS, NOR THE LETTERS, NOR THE IMAGES THEY ELICIT” which offer students two different models for how longer poems can be used to accomplish unique purposes.

For studying other aspects of structure like punctuation, enjambment, or spacing, students can do close reads of poems like “FOOTNOTES” and “MEMORY / LOSS” to analyze how writers of poetry specifically can play with common conventions to create specific effects on the reader. The book also includes multiple odes which can be easily compared and contrasted with more canonical texts from authors like Shakespeare. There are a few teacher resources available at https://teensinprint.com/forteachers/ for folks looking to use mentor texts like Olayiwola’s poems in their classroom.

In addition to a focus on language and writer techniques, the content matter of Olayiwola’s work lends itself well to both English and History classes. When learning about issues related to often marginalized experiences in the US, poems from i shimmer sometimes, too can be used as core or supplemental texts to give students another way of connecting to the content, especially in a history class where students are most commonly reading primary sources that may not be as accessible.

A unit on immigration, for example, could use poems like “CONTINENT” and “HAD MY PARENTS NOT BEEN SEPARATED AFTER MY FATHER’S TRAFFIC STOP, ARREST, AND DEPORTATION FROM THE UNITED STATES” to allow students to explore essential questions from the unit or approach the content from a more individual level. For discussions related to the experiences of folks who are Black, Queer, and/or women, there are countless poems available for students that can offer both windows and mirrors into some of these experiences.