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Aug 28, 2015

Creativity in Bloom Among Community Children

by Karen Risch Mott

Now in its eleventh year, the Furious Flower Children’s Poetry Camp (August 3–7, 2015) provided workshops to 77 children. Nearly 40% of them attended at no cost to their families. This demonstrates a continuing commitment to the original mission of the camp: to offer an integrated arts experience that excludes no one and to bring literature, visual art, dance, and music together for a week-long celebration of creativity in all its forms.

Furious Flower's 2015 Children's Poetry Camp

More than 60% of the campers this year came from immigrant families or members of a racial or ethnic minority. This, too, is part of the Furious Flower Poetry Center’s mission: to cultivate, honor, and promote diverse voices. At Children’s Poetry Camp, attendees aged 7 to 13 express themselves in words, movement, painting, sculpture, and rhythm making.

The camp also serves as a training ground for more than 20 mature students interested in working with young people. It is staffed primarily by JMU students who serve as camp counselors and a core group of poetry lovers who attended the camp when they were younger and are now in high school or studying at other universities. Counselors interact with community kids, help keep them engaged and safe, and set an example of inclusive group dynamics. Similar to the campers, the counselors come from a variety of backgrounds; this year’s group of counselors spoke more than 10 languages.

“This program helped me develop my love of many different forms, and I’m grateful to have the chance to do the same for other kids now.” 
—writing workshop teacher Kyra Bennington

To gauge the camp’s success, Furious Flower can point to the high number of returning campers, counselors and teachers, about half each year. Among the six teachers, who conceive the curriculum and lead the workshops, is Kyra Bennington (pictured above, second from right), a Harrisonburg native who has attended every poetry camp since it began. She became a camp counselor in her teens, assisted the director last year, and taught her first series of workshops this year. She now studies English at Brooklyn College in New York.

“Teaching this year made me think about everything I was exposed to at this camp, things I wouldn’t necessarily have learned at school” Bennington offers. “Would I have had any sense of poetry beyond the couplet and the haiku if I hadn’t been involved with Furious Flower? I don’t know. But this program helped me develop my love of many different forms, and I’m grateful to have the chance to do the same thing for other kids now.”

Campers showcased their talents for friends and family at a final performance in the Memorial Hall Auditorium on August 7. While the main objective is to put kids in touch with their creativity, the camp also seeks to help them build the confidence to display it. As one parent put it, “This is a great program that inspires children and adults to try their hardest, to never give up, and to believe that anything is possible.”

To see more photos from this event, visit

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