Class of 2004 grad shares passion for poetry with students at workshop

March 8, 2024

By Dana Treier

Class of 2024 graduate Gia Grillo made LHS history during her sophomore year when she won first place at the inaugural Spring Poetry Slam with her poem “Briefcase,” which is about a child inheriting a briefcase from his father. 

Grillo returned to LHS on Feb. 5 to lead two sessions of a poetry workshop in the media center. All students who took part in the 14th Annual Winter Poetry Slam were invited to participate, with 18 students attending the first session and 17 students attending the second session.

During the workshop, Grillo read some of her poetry to the group and led a series of writing activities. She said her main objectives were to assist students in finding inspiration for their writing and help them prepare for the 22nd Annual Spring Poetry Slam, which will take place on March 28.

“My goals were for them to think outside the box [and use their poetry] as a means of understanding themselves and writing,” Grillo said. “Poetry seems lofty to people, but it’s accessible.”

Grillo said poetry is her favorite genre of writing because it can convey multiple meanings simultaneously and requires conciseness.

“Say[ing] a lot in a very short space has always appealed to me,” Grillo said. “[Poetry gets] down to the essentials.”

During the workshop, students could ask Grillo questions. One of the most frequent was about writer’s block, which occurs when one feels stuck in the writing process and is unable to move forward.

Grillo said students should not stifle their creativity or expect perfection on the first draft. 

“Do not block yourself before you write anything. Everyone should be comfortable with a garbage first draft. The process of starting off with imperfect[ion] is the only way to get to something with value,” Grillo said.

She also advised the students to continue searching for poetic inspiration.

“Be patient with yourself and the process, and do not stop writing,” Grillo said. “Just keep putting the pen to the paper.”

Sophomore Angeli Rivera, who won an honorable mention award at the Winter Poetry Slam, said he decided to participate in the workshop because he likes listening to others read their poems and appreciates the narratives poetry contains.

“Each story is always so unique and personal to how they see the world…. It opens up my mind to things I wouldn’t have noticed before,” Rivera said.

He said the workshop improved his writing skills. 

“Be patient with yourself and the process, and do not stop writing.”

“The most effective strategy I will keep with me in the future is to read my poems out loud to myself and other people,” Rivera said. “It helps me realize the mistakes in my writing and things I can fix in order to improve.”

Senior Rola Mustafa, who earned first and second place awards at last year’s poetry slams, said she enjoyed Grillo’s instruction because she encouraged the students’ creativity.

“Gia would ask us simple questions, but they would spark so many thoughts and get us writing right away,” Mustafa said. “An effective strategy I learned is to not think too much and just write everything that comes to mind.”

Mustafa said she looks forward to attending another workshop led by Grillo in the future.

“Gia is a wonderful facilitator. Her personality and openness make everyone comfortable and make us all feel ready to share our work because we know we won’t face judgment,” Mustafa said. “There’s always room to improve and always new things to learn.”

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