Hardin High School publishes first literary journal
Thu, 04/06/2017 - 12:30pm admin
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
Utilizing what Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove referred to as “language at its most distilled and most powerful,” Hardin High School has published its first edition of The Bulldog Literary Journal. Within the spiral-bound book of poetry, 84 students take on the topics of life, death, daily struggles and more.
As the journal nears its end, sophomore Caleb Roan even questions the validity of his efforts in his piece, “Why Poems?”
“Why am I writing a poem?” he begins. “I don’t really like poems.”
His views on the subject change as the poem progresses.
Students whose work is showcased in the journal have been taught writing styles and techniques – often since the sixth grade – as part of Mick Fedullo’s expressive language program. In addition to his lessons in Hardin, Fedullo also currently teaches in 16-week segments for schools in Lodge Grass and St. Xavier.
To hone his own writing skills while in college, Fedullo attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. The above-mentioned Dove happened to be one of his classmates.
His experience teaching in Big Horn County goes back to 1988, when he moved to Pryor and lived behind Plenty Coups High School for 15 years. He has taught writing in 25 different Indian reservations and northern Alaska over the past three decades, starting with the Gila River Indian Community south of Phoenix, Ariz.
“It was through the Arizona Commission on the Arts, They hired me two days a week for the school year,” Fedullo said. “I loved it, the kids responded. No one could believe the kids were writing so prolifically and so creatively.”
Following media attention to the project, Fedullo approached the Gila-area school board and asked to teach full time. They hired him, he considered the possibility of teaching in other reservations as well and “it snowballed from there.”
Local classes begin in middle school with basic figures of speech, he said, such as similes and alliteration. When students reach high school, he continued, they’re ready to write poetry and personal narrative essays.
“In ninth grade, we do beat poetry,” Fedullo said, referring to an experimental writing style from the 1950s that emphasized the capture of thoughts and feelings. “We have a lot of fun with that.”
The journal’s final poem, written by senior Anton Rideshorse, details a dream he had following the death of his grandfather Arthur Wall Sr. In his dream, they rode horses and finished their journey at a place “where the sky meets the land.”
Writing his poem, “The Ride,” according to Rideshorse, has helped him come to terms with Wall’s death, which occurred back when he was a freshman. He is a member of the Crow Tribe, whose members often reference one’s passing by saying the deceased has moved to the “other side camp.”
“It made me realize that he’s in a better place now, that he’s doing well,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about him. He’s always going to be with me.”
To memorialize his grandfather, Rideshorse has a tattoo on his arm depicting a basketball with angel’s wings. The reason for the basketball, he explained, is that he likes the sport.
Taking a different approach from Rideshorse, other contributions to the journal deal with the transition from childhood to “the next generation,” as sophomore Demi Uffelman puts it. One step for her in the transition process, Uffelman writes, occurred at the age of 10 when her father taught her to drive the family auger – a vehicle she called “the tomato can.” That phrase is also the title of her poem.
Like many local residents, Uffelman’s ancestors emigrated from Russia – starting with her great-grandfather – beginning an agricultural tradition that remains strong today. Her uncle took control of the ranching side of the family operation, she said, and her father took the farming side.
“After this memory, I’ve always wanted to keep on with the farming tradition,” she said. “I’m thinking of going into agronomy in the future, and that memory keeps with me as I go on.”
If Uffelman chooses to continue the family farm, she said, she might teach a child to drive the auger as she once learned to do herself.
In shaping identity, a person may choose something concrete, like “farmer.” They may also choose something more abstract, as expressed in junior Peighton Greenfield’s oddly-spaced poem about being odd, entitled, “The Odd One.”
What makes her odd, Greenfield said, is that she’s quiet.
Unlike all other works in the journal, Greenfield’s poem uses tabs and ellipses to create a loose, undefined structure for a piece that states, “We are all odd. / Perfect? / No, definitely not.” According to Greenfield, she did not base the style off of anyone previous.
“As I went, it got easier, because it just flowed,” Greenfield said. “I liked how it stopped in different places and started…weird.”
Speaking of weird…
“I think poems are pretty weird, too,” Roan states in “Why Poems?” “They make you spill out your feelings on a piece of paper for other people’s entertainment.”
Of his poem’s five paragraphs, the first four explain why Roan doesn’t want to write it. Soon, however, he wears out his complaints in regards to the medium.
By the end of his piece, Roan and poet Rita Dove may not have seen exactly eye-to-eye, but different perspectives and experiences are what Fedullo says bring out “the power of poetry.”
Before The Bulldog Literary Journal, according to Fedullo, he only read Hardin students’ work “in isolation,” where they struck a chord with him emotionally many times. Now, he has the chance to share their poetry on a larger scale.
“They are not that bad if you think about it,” Roan states. “So, yeah, I guess I do like poems.”