Poetry workshop encourages teen creativity
Florin Nielsen teaches his poetry workshop at the Holladay Library. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)
Florin Nielsen has been writing poetry since he was in the third grade, but didn’t start embracing the title of poet until he retired from teaching high school. He now spends his time teaching how to write poetry to people of all ages. Nielsen held a special poetry workshop for adolescents on April 10 at the Holladay Library.
“I’ve done this now at three different middle schools. I had decided on something and it worked so I’ve tried to stay with it,” Nielsen said. “I talk to them about what they know about poetry, what it is and what it isn’t. I then immediately have them write it themselves.”
Nielsen developed a five-line constructivist poetry format. He talks the participants through the poem and then has them write one of their own. They usually accomplish this in 10–12 minutes.
“That’s how I get them to do it. I have them write immediately. I have them share them, listen to one another. We talk about them and I talk about how this is the gist of poetry,” Nielsen said. “Rhythm and rhyme isn’t. Your subject matter, your imagery, your metaphors and your entering the piece yourself, those are the most important things about poetry.”
At the end of the workshop, Nielsen said he hoped the teens felt they could write poetry.
“If they can do this and go along with this, they get the feeling they can do it,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen was first introduced to poetry by his mother, who would read poetry to him every night.
“She’d read me so many poems when I was a child. And I liked them. I didn’t know how to do them but I liked them,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen didn’t do much with poetry until he was in college and took a poetry appreciation class. He then began to write his own poems.
“I had no training, but I decided to start writing them,” Nielsen said.
When he started teaching school, he’d teach poetry. It was then he got a passion for it. He found he could get his students to write poetry if he showed he was willing to write some as well.
“I would do it with them and when they would have their sharing groups, I would sit in a sharing group and put mine on the table with theirs and they really grew from that,” Nielsen said.
After retiring from teaching at East High School for 25 years, Nielsen began to write more in earnest. He has taught poetry at Mount Olympus Senior Center for the past 15 years.
Nielsen’s poetry focuses on his family and his hometown, Hyde Park. He has a collection of poetry called “Hyde Park Sonnets.” He is also in a poetry club that focuses on the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.
“I’ve been highly influenced by Rumi,” Nielsen said. “Lately, my poetry is more mystical as I age.”