Monday, April 04, 2011

More Happenings in April

Stephen Haff - Still Waters in a Storm Monday, April 18th - 7pm - FREE - In Store Event

Stephen Haff is an innovative educator in New York City. He runs Still Waters in a Storm, a drop-in educational centre for all ages in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn. Stephen will be discussing the importance of reading at any age and his observations of our education system. This will be a thought-provoking evening for anyone who is a lover of words or teaches in any capacity. Learn more about Still Waters HERE, read an article about Still Waters HERE, watch a BBC profile of the program HERE.

Letters of Support

What Stephen Haff is doing at Still Waters is giving inner-city kids a chance to meet with well known, artistically serious writers: Peter Carey, Richard Price, Colum McCann, Patrick McGrath, among others. That's an amazing line-up. But equally amazing is the atmosphere that Stephen has created in this alternative learning sanctuary. I've worked with lots of different literacy outreach programs, but Still Waters is unique: the love of language Stephen has instilled in his cohort of kids is wonderfully inspiring. And as a result, as a writer and a person, you meet the kids on common ground—the blank page—but nothing is common in this exchange. The enthusiasm and invention and concentration of the kids on what they write gives you the sense that the English language, in all its permutations, is in an interesting and invigorating state of repair.

Tom Sleigh
Senior Poet
Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing
Hunter College, City University of New York

My name is Peter Carey. I am the author of eleven novels, and the winner of numerous international literary prizes, including the Booker Prize (twice), the Commonwealth Prize (twice), and Australia's Miles Franklin Award (three times). I am also the executive director of the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program here in New York City.

I write now to encourage your support of an extraordinary writing project named Still Waters in a Storm, in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In the first instance I write in support of Stephen Haff, whom I have known for nineteen years. Stephen Haff went to Yale, so you could say he had a course set out for him, except he refused it. He left New Dramatists. He entered the public school system, not to work with the most privileged students but the least advantaged. Time and time again he earned his students' trust. Why did they give it to him? The answer is, quite simply, because they saw who he was. I believe you will, too.

I am writing today because another Stephen Haff project is being born. He, of course, would say it is not a Stephen Haff Project at all. In a sense he would say this rightly, because the project is being made by Bushwick residents of all ages, including small children, teenagers, and a wide range of adults. It is the writing group, the one called Still Waters in a Storm.

The members of the group, and there are already 20, write freely, about anything, in any style or genre. They meet over pizza. They write, read aloud and discuss their writing. If you could be a fly on the wall you'd hear complex, inspiring group discussions that would take your breath away.

The writers describe the group as "family," as "therapy." Some say it's what gets them through the week. Yet anyone who has been privileged to read their work knows that much more than this is happening--stories and poems and essays begin tentatively, but soon the rhythms become more complex and confident, the metaphors more striking, the meanings more layered.

When Stephen Haff walks through your doorway, you may not at first recognize a miracle worker, and perhaps that's his secret. He listens. He hears the voices of the street and invites them in. Almost removing himself, nearly disappearing, he makes room for others to express themselves and thereby gives them the space to show who they really are.

In traditional schooling, teachers are the stars and students must run the curriculum. Stephen Haff's method is different, not least in that it succeeds in those tough streets where the old-style game no longer works. This approach is feeding school's refugees what they need, and delivering what a whole city wishes for them.

Good news is hard to find these days. That is why we need to support Stephen Haff and Still Waters in a Storm.


Peter Carey


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