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Write Your Block

What do you see when you walk out your front door? What would you like to see? What does your block mean to you? These are the questions former poet-in-chief Frank Sherlock asked of the city when he created Write Your Block as a way for Philadelphians to explore their neighborhoods via poetry, charting—and sharing—their communities through their own words. The result: A map of Philadelphia that is not rivers and parks and streets, but ideas and memories and dreams for neighborhoods through the people who know them best.

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What volunteering at Spells Writing Lab is all about

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With Spells Writing Lab

Spells Writing Lab is a Philadelphia-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that develops the creative and expository writing abilities of school-age children through free, fun, and imaginative writing programs and teacher development opportunities.

Here’s how to get involved:

This is My Philly

Children from all over the city write their blocks at a Spells Writing Lab workshop

Children from all over the city write their blocks at a Spells Writing Lab workshop

The sights and smells, tastes and sounds of West Philadelphia. The green trees and slow traffic of Ardmore. The children laughing like hyenas in Fairmount.

These are a few of the ways children described their neighborhoods last Saturday, at a Write Your Block workshop led by Spells Writing Lab, a six-year old nonprofit that brings free writing programs to Philadelphia children in schools and summer camp, and AIGA, the professional association for design. Part of the annual This is My Philly event at Moore College of Art, the workshop took children on a poetic journey to their most familiar place—their neighborhoods—using their five senses to conjure a corner of Philadelphia that is at once unique and familiar to anyone who lives here.

Like this, from Maddie of Fairmount: “I smell dirty puddles, fresh bacon sizzling out of the pan / I taste wind blowing in my mouth like thin air.”

At the event, Spells programming director Liz Encarnacion led the 20 students in a brainstorming session in which they imagined themselves as pigs on a farm, using their senses to describe their experience. Then they wrote their own poems, or stories, about their neighborhoods. Finally, they made a collage using their words as inspiration.

Scanned versions of their final art projects will be posted as an exhibition at Moore. The poems will be published on The Citizen, as part of Write Your Block, a citywide poetry project that was started by former Poet Laureate Frank Sherlock, to encourage Philadelphians to map their city through poems.

You can participate in Write Your Block, too. Submit your own poem about your neighborhood here. Download a toolkit to hold your own workshop—and let us know about it.

Photo credit: Melanie Bavaria

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