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Young STL poets get their say on love, loneliness, death and hope

2013 7GP book cover

Seventh-graders are known for the outsized emotions that begin to grip their thoughts at the onset of puberty. But a program called the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation helps middle-schoolers express their feelings.

This Sunday, and the following Saturday, many of the 82 local winners published through what's known as 7GP will read their work aloud. The events take place at the The Book House, 7452 Manchester Rd. in Maplewood. St. Louis’ new poet laureate will attend one of the events, according to 7GP founder Aaron Williams.

The book, now called “Poetry on Our Terms” contains 118 poems from schools of 39 counties in 16 states, ranging from New York to South Dakota to Alaska. They address issues from the joys of siblings to grief of suicide. The only rule is that there is no rule when it comes to how they use their words.

“There is honesty, courage and craft in the tears and triumphs shared here,” Williams wrote in the introduction to the 2015 book.

One young girl documents the cruelty of her peers, in “Sara’s Story.”

You read the cover

and turn the page

You stop reading

Then, you judge me

You read the cover, not my story


Evan writes about transformation.

The quiet man screams

The liar tells a truth

The braggart loses his self-esteem

The mature man acts like a youth

The murderer saves a life

The blind man sees

The bachelor finds a wife

The atheist falls to his knees


Chloe examines gender confusion.

This time, it’s different.

This time it isn’t the haircut,

thighs, height, weight, anxiety, laughs,

or shoves, or the in-betweens.

This time, it’s queer.


Only a handful of students wrote about this year’s biggest local news topic: Ferguson.

Peter addresses the unrest after Michael Brown’s death, by recalling time spent in the city where his father and aunt grew up.

A model of coexistence and peace between two races.

I ran a 5K through the central neighborhood,

With the sun glinting off the houses, making the whole

Vicinity look heavenly and beautiful.

But then came August 9, and his haven became a war zone. He ended the poem on a hopeful note.

Everywhere, even on the burnt buildings, I see “I Heart Ferguson.”

The damage is being repaired, just the finishing of gold to be put on.


It’s the fifth year for 7GP, a program that’s offered to every middle school in the nation. It’s a labor of love for Williams, who works as an attorney recruiter. The project requires long hours.

Aaron Williams
Credit 7GP
Aaron Williams

But it’s the students who keep him going. Williams knows that, for them, it’s not about writing a single poem. It’s about having a new tool for coping with adolescent life.

“Even after process was over, the kids this year wanted to still have poetry cafes,” Williams said. “That’s a wonderful thing.”

But Williams isn't sure 7GP will be around for a sixth year. He's been hoping to finance the project through the sale of his extensive collection of croquet paraphernalia. But that hasn't happened yet.

In a public invitation to this year's events, Williams wrote: "This is our fifth poetry book resulting from programming that is transforming young lives and improving classrooms. It may be our last."

Micalan reads “As I Look Around” from last year’s 7th Grade Poetry Foundation event.

7GP logo
Credit 7GP


Where: The Book House, 7452 Manchester Rd., 63143

When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, April 19 and Saturday, April 15

How much: Free

Information:  7GP website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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