I met with Paul McIntosh in the early spring of 2011 to discuss the possibility of designing and printing a poetry book––The Ringing Ear––for his school, Wadleigh Secondary School. We met and discussed what he envisioned with Vanguard’s Graphic Production Supervisor, Antonio Lopez. We worked diligently through the spring and summer to create a book the students and community members would be proud of. This project was being funded by a grant from the New York City Council, Office of Inez E. Dickens. The expectations were high.
After several rounds of revisions, we were finally able to get something that was print-ready. Paul was kind enough to include a special thank-you to both Antonio and me for helping to get this book printed. We ran 200 copies digitally. The final product looked beautiful and exceeded all expectations. Antonio and I were invited to their special “publishing party.” We travelled up to the Harlem to the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 163 West 125th Street. When we got there, Paul excitedly greeted us and requested that I speak, much to my surprise. We entered the small auditorium, helped ourselves to the refreshments, and watched the activities in the room from a back corner. The community leaders, teachers, family members, and students were excitedly buzzing around the room. I noticed in front of us a beautiful young woman in red glasses, happily chatting to an elderly woman. A call to order, and the young woman joined her fellow students in the front two rows. Community leaders, teachers, Paul, and then I spoke. I talked about the process but focused on congratulating the students on their achievements and saying what an honor it was to help them and be invited to their event. The students all took turns reading their poems. Some of the poems were rapped, some rhythmically spoken, and some just simply read. Even a parent and a teacher were represented in the book. It was amazing to hear them spoken after just reading them for so long. I was so impressed with the beauty and excitement they all displayed with their readings.
Finally, Miss Red Glasses got up and started to rhythmically read her poem about a cancer survivor. The woman in front of me started to sob. I reached out, with tears in my eyes, to say her daughter was doing a great job. She turned to me and said, “ That’s my granddaughter, and I raised her. I didn’t even know she wrote a poem about me.” I was really teary by then. It was so touching. Her son and grandson joined her, and she turned and introduced them to me. The event concluded on such a high note––everyone was just thrilled with the book, and the students were even autographing their poems!
We learned that creating and printing a project––something we do every day and take for granted––can have such an impact on the end users. For me, this project was deeply personal after attending the reading. It had a voice and meant something more than ink on paper to a small group of people. I happily watched it come to full bloom. It was a celebration for everyone, and we are excitedly anticipating the start of the new Ringing Ear 2012. We certainly have a tough act to follow!
Author: Diane Waldman