Transitioning to CW 2 by Parker Burrows

Since the end of my sophomore year, I was eagerly anticipating the day when I would finally become a member of Creative Writing 2, an intimate class featuring the juniors and seniors of CW, as well as an artist in-residence. Following the conclusion of this year’s poetry unit, I got my wish. After being in the class for a few weeks now, I can already observe the big difference between CW 2 and CW 1. Creative Writing 1, a class for the freshman and sophomores, taught by Heather Woodward, is an opportunity to learn the basics of writing and analysis. Heather slowly guided us juniors through the essentials of writing, such as the importance of literary devices, how to find deeper messages in poems, and how to give constructive criticism in writing workshops. 

Creative Writing 2, taught by the wonderful Angie Sijun Lou, is a completely different world. Here, everyone is on their own, and given an opportunity to apply what they have learned after being immersed in the basics. A few days ago, we read through an Emily Dickinson poem as a class, a poem that I had read and struggled to understand in my freshman year. I found that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I picked up different techniques that Dickinson used, such as metaphor and rhythm. When Angie opened up a discussion about the poem as a class, I was able to meaningfully contribute to the conversation, and articulate how the literary devices enhance the poem, something I couldn’t have dreamed of doing during my freshman year. 

Workshopping groups are another showcase of growth. When reading a peer’s poem, everybody in the class is able to recall their experience of reading and writing poetry, and can give honest, constructive feedback. On some classes, we spend over thirty minutes identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a classmate’s poem. Every person in the class is extremely familiar with the workshopping process, as a result of many years of workshops in CW 1, which creates a comfortable environment in our CW 2 groups. 

This new feeling of independence has allowed me to think about my growth from a clueless eighth grader to an actively participating 11th grader. I am grateful for Creative Writing 1 for helping me get started in my writing, and just as grateful for Creative Writing 2 for giving me a chance to show what I learned.

Parker Burrows (Class of ’22)

Filipino Cultural Heritage Poetry Unit by Parker Burrows

Over the summer, I had the daunting assignment of preparing a lesson plan about the poetry of my culture. As I thought about my cultural background, I realized that preparing a unit on Filipino-American poetry would be perfect. Historically, Filipino and Filipino-American history have not been taught in most schools, and most people don’t know about topics such as Filipino immigration, and the Philippine-American war, which I believe should be basic history education. 

I also decided upon the lesson because of my own desire to connect with my culture. I haven’t met many Filipinos my age, and I hadn’t learned anything about Filipino culture before I began research on my lesson. I was feeling disconnected from myself, and by researching this lesson through the internet, books, and talking to family members, I began to gain a deeper appreciation for my family and my cultural background. 

The lesson itself was quite successful. I decided to focus on the late Filipino-American poet and activist Al Robles, a native of San Francisco who was strongly involved in pro-Filipino movements, such as protesting the demolition of the International Hotel, a popular shelter for many Filipino immigrants. Although the poetry was all from the same author, Robles writes his poetry from a range of voices and topics; one poem was about a wandering immigrant, another was about ethnic empowerment. Each of the poems had various cultural references, which I explained individually, using a slideshow. There was an overarching theme of desperation to assimilate and fit in to American culture, which I felt both related to the theme of my lesson (teaching about forgotten Filipino stories) and to my personal identity (feeling lost and disconnected from oneself). The whole class was engaged and participated enthusiastically in each of the poetry discussions. I wanted to help the class understand the different emotions that Filipino-American immigrants felt during their journey to America, so I gave relevant writing prompts. I asked people to write about a poem about a character who undertakes a difficult journey (like the Filipinos on their way to America), and a poem about feeling extreme desperation (like the Filipinos who are desperate to assimilate in order to have a prosperous life).

I was not the only one who shared my personal experiences. Assistant Principal Monette Benitez, and Spoken Arts head Aimee Suzara were both invited to participate in my lesson, and they spoke about growing up as Filipina women. They echoed similar sentiments as I did, such as feeling disconnected from their heritage and “whitewashed.” Suzara even shared poetry from her book Souvenir, including one striking poem about challenging her high school history teacher to teach about Filipino history. 

At the end of the lesson, many people wrote in their feedback cards that they previously had little to no knowledge about Filipino culture, and that my lesson was informative. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to educate people about important topics that I care about and are frequently ignored.

Poetry and Mental Health by Parker Burrows

After spending over a year in the Creative Writing department, I can say that this department has given me some of the most enriching life experiences I can ask for. I’ve had the opportunity to meet several intelligent and friendly people that I get to share every single school day with, and I’ve gotten to read tens of impressive pieces of writing. I’m extremely thankful for the department and have little to complain about.

However, my experiences in Creative Writing are often reduced by my struggles with mental health. Much of my time last year revealed little productivity as a product of depression and anxiety, and I’ve had similar issues this year as well. I’ve found many mechanisms of coping, but one that has helped me a great amount is to try to understand my experiences through writing. I’ve found poetry’s obscure language to be a great device to describe my self-uncertainties. Much more than fiction or playwriting, poetry helps me realize that it’s okay to not always know why emotions appear the way they do.

This year, I was asked to write a poem about a change I’ve undergone this summer. I decided to write about my outlook on depression. Essentially, I realized that my thoughts don’t make an effect on how the world works, just on how I perceive it. I’m slowly working on developing a positive perspective about my depression, and this poem has been a huge help in the process.

My Mind is Not the World 

Whether the skylights open

When I’m restless in bed The night still

speaks And the shatters of glasses

and plates Remain the same through

the evening

As they do all

evenings

 

And no matter the days I shake and cry At the people and the

volcanic pressure of an inflexible universe The moon still

shines through the skylight

above my bed If there was ever a

storm in my bedroom, The city gardens certainly wouldn’t

notice They’ve looked the same since I got here

 

My tears are not what halts the world The

world moves like it always does In

renewing, constantly undiscovered beauty

My thoughts are not my experiences And

my experiences will always unfold If there

was ever a storm in my bedroom, The

universe certainly wouldn’t notice.

 

– Parker Burrows, Class of 2022

PARKER APPRECIATION POST BY SOFI ORKIN

Look here’s the situation; Parker’s a Cool Kid, a smart kid, and a great friend. Not just that, but he’s been responsible for me meeting other people who have also become really close, great friends (I’m not going to even say their names though, because this is about Parker.)  SO with that out of the way, I’m going to begin by commenting on Parker’s music taste. Which is bomb. He’s not even that much of a music snob, he’s just really good at finding cool, sometimes underappreciated artists, which is also a benefit to me because then if I want music recommendations I know who to turn to. Also, big Beatles fan. Secondly, Parker just radiates confidence. Like, it’s not even fair. Think of it this way. Have you ever woken up one day and just not felt very confident and instead just kind of down? Well, Parker got that confidence, and when you meet him you’ll get that confidence back and more. That’s the glory of knowing Parker.

In my first week of school, I had very few friends. Thanks to Parker, I now have more.  Close friend Ivy Dubiner says “On the record, I love Parker. I mean really, he’s the best.” Ivy went on to explain that he’s just one of those people that can strike up a conversation with anyone. “He writes me limericks, it’s sick” Ivy said, concluding the interview. Ivy’s father, David Dubiner, A.K.A. The Dube, has the same opinion on Mr. Burrows, describing him as interesting, funny, and a nice guy. “I’m not accustomed to being around teenage boys who actually have something to say.” Mr. Dube comments.  

“Parker is someone who isn’t easily overwhelmed and he just really know how it be.” Zai says, one of Parkers friends and fellow Creative Writers. Benny says “Parker’s a man of principle, he would never stoop to the level of salmon poetry”. Our resident ghost JP says “He’s easy to make fun of but doesn’t take it too seriously. He’s a lovable guy who is very huggable.” And Award Winning Poet Jessica Schott-Rosenfield says “Ugg, Parker. What a frustratingly stand-up guy.”

Parker gained affection, and rare affection at that, from very aloof theatre kid Lau. “Tall hair.” she says. “He got it.” Clearly, Parker is well-liked dude. So well liked, in fact, that a senior has some high praise to speak of him. “He’s like the most earnest person I’ve ever met,” Huckleberry Shelf says, “and he’s shockingly cultured for someone just out of eight grade.”

Parker Burrows is a fun guy (but he’s not a mushroom) and you will be lucky if you ever meet him.

Sofi Orkin, class of 2022

My First Impressions of CW by Parker Burrows

It’s been about 12 weeks at SOTA, and looking back on it, I’ve realized it’s the most fun I’ve ever had going to a school. I came into this year with so many doubts, and I thought it would be impossible to make friends but I was fortunately proven wrong. Being in the Creative Writing department means I’m just surrounded by intelligent and friendly people at least 2 hours a day.

Plus, I’ve made such a strong connection with each of the freshmen, that it’s absolutely wonderful spending time with them. 7th and 8th grade were difficult years for me, and it was hard for me to enjoy school because of either people in my class or constant assignments. One of the biggest things driving me through 8th grade was the idea of the creative writing department, and the moment I found that I was accepted into the department, I pushed through the rest of the year.

Now that I’m here, I realize that being able to write something every day and having an entire community behind me is extremely therapeutic. Our discussions in creative writing are always filled with mature and thoughtful ideas, which is a drastic change from how lazy our religion discussions were in 8th grade. We are currently studying poetry, and as we have discussions about each poem we read, I always get to see a new side to the poem because of all of the insightful observations each person brings.

Our field trips are amazing. Compared to my two field trips in 8th grade, both of which were plays at Riordan, there have been so many great moments. The MOMA, The De Young, The Exploratorium, the bay, and the list goes on. One of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had was the Kirby Cove field trip. It was an overnight camping trip that began with us freshmen getting dunked in the ocean and improved from there. I walked around the woods, I played midnight soccer with the department, I saw the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise and I had so many great moments there. Everyone seems to enjoy themselves on these field trips and there’s such an impossibly infectious energy.

I’ve fallen in love with Creative Writing, and it has just been nothing short of an absolutely amazing trip. I am so excited to see how the next four years will play out.

Parker Burrows, Class of 2022