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Team of Madison East teachers publish book of pandemic-era poems, a time capsule of self-expression

Kennedy Adeetuk, Vera Naputi, Anisa Yudawanti and Cesar Martinez. Photo courtesy Vera Naputi.

A journey into self-expression, self-reflection and inspiration, four Madison East High School teachers came together to write a collection of poems.

“Delivered” was conceived during Poetry Month in April of 2020. The authors, all teachers at Madison East High School, were grappling with how to stay connected with each other and navigate the challenges and uncertainty of COVID. Kennedy Adeetuk, Cesar Martinez, Vera Naputi and Anisa Yudawanti expressed their feelings as educators, being Black and brown in the US and the shared experiences among them. The group hoped to inspire readers, especially students and fellow educators, through sharing intimate moments of introspection and vulnerability in their lives.

“Writing these poems allowed us to get to know each other in a way that we might not have otherwise been able to if we weren’t going through a pandemic,” Yudawanti said in an interview. “We were all working in schools teaching and that day is busy, and realistically, our time together was scarce.”

The group has been working together in the college and career prep program Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) since 2020. They were the first all-Black and brown group of educators to run the program and have bonded ever since. In the wake of the pandemic, and the move to remote learning, the four teachers leaned on each other for support and affirmation.

Naputi brought up the idea of writing a poem every day for the entirety of Poetry Month. The team was excited to try it out.

“In the beginning, it was pretty exciting. It was cool hearing everybody’s words and voices and in a different format,” Adeetuk said. “It took a lot out of you in order to write what you wanted to write, so that required digging into your memory bank and kind of reliving some of those experiences you had.”

Each of the authors wrote a poem a day. Naputi presented their group chat with a prompt every single day and each delivered a poem via text. For 30 days, each dug through their memories to find a life experience they could write a poem about.

Those poems now make up the volume titled “Delivered,” a play on the medium they used to share their work. The four authors know who wrote which poems, but readers do not. Each poem is anonymous and could have been written by any of them — which is the point, they said. The group recognized that the experiences they have are not only shared among each other, but with readers, too. It is possible to see yourself reflected in any number of poems from any author.

At the heart of it all, the collection of poetry is about being your authentic self and self-reflection. Each teacher reflects on their philosophy as educators. The words may differ from each author, but the point of all interludes remains the same — being your authentic self.

“They were sort of like the interludes of talking about pedagogically, what is it that we believe in,” said Naputi. “I really think I’m speaking for the four of us that the four of us do value identity, and we value relationships and building nurturing spaces where students show up exactly who they are and not half of who they are or a quarter of who they are.”

The book’s message is pushed further in its final pages, where it challenges readers to try and write from prompts the authors provided.

The team is not together, at least in person anymore, but the four remain connected with each other. Naputi and Adeetuk are still teaching in Madison. Martinez has moved to California to teach and Yudawanti will be attending Stanford in the coming academic year to work towards her PhD.

“Delivered” can be purchased from any major retailer, Amazon, or locally at A Room of One’s Own, 2717 Atwood Ave.