I’m a Flame You Can’t Put Out

“I am the beginning of many ideas. / I am the open-minded sparrow that accepts anything with open wings,” writes poet Max Schiewe-Weliky, age 11. Max was one of 43 fifth grade student authors published in 826 Boston’s most recent publication, I’m a Flame You Can’t Put Out (Soy una llama que no puedes apagar). The spirited, bilingual collection features poems penned in English and Spanish from the Rafael Hernández School, a two-way language school in the Boston public school system, located in the Roxbury neighborhood.

I’m a Flame You Can’t Put Out marks the culmination of a months-long Young Authors’ Book Project between 826 Boston and the Hernández school. Over the course of the project, student authors explored the poetry of Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, N. Scott Momaday, and local poet Pat Mora before working side-by-side with 826 Boston writing tutors to draft, edit, and shape their poems for publication.


The students, many of whom straddle two languages and two cultures in their daily lives, weighed essential questions about identity and selfhood in their writing. Miguel Ángel Novelle-Ruddy, age 10, titled his poem “Fenway Park es mí papa” while Adrían Villalona, age 11, wrote that he aspires to become a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox with a mechanical engineering degree from Harvard.

Here is a taste of their work, by fifth grader Gregory Ortiz:

When I Get To Work On A Construction Site
When I get to work on a construction site,
I will build my mom a house
And put bright decorations in it, like in a circus.
I will get everything done on time, like a boss.
I will work in Boston, my hometown.
I will shape the house like clay
And make it big like a mansion
With long brown wood and white painted walls
And the smell of flowers
And a picture of a dog on the wall.
I’m gonna put my hard-working hands on tough stuff,
Plan it like an architect.
I’ll hammer and nail until the work is done.
I’ll build the walls
And raise the roof.
The house will be sturdy like a truck
Triangular and tall
And will be a perfect place where she belongs.
She put a roof over my head
And I’ll put one over hers,
When I get to work on a construction site.

This short film, directed by Matt Watson, features each of the 43 students reciting a line from their poems.

Located in Roxbury’s Egleston Square, 826 Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching creative and expository writing to students ages 6-18, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. All of its free programs seek to strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice. A chapter of the national network of writing centers founded by writer Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari, 826 Boston has delivered one-on-one writing support to more than 10,000 underserved Boston Public School students, all free of charge. 826 Boston student authors have published their writing in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and in numerous original publications including A Place for Me in the World, which The Boston Globe hailed as “a magnificent book… (and) a triumph of middle school education.” In 2013, the 826 network received the prestigious American Literacy Prize from the Library of Congress for its pioneering work to eradicate illiteracy.

Jessica Drench is the Education Director at 826 Boston.

06.24.14 by Jessica Drench