Fulbright Scholar Dr. José B. González Talks the Power of Poetry with Students

Author, poet, and Fulbright Scholar Dr. José B. González spoke with Calvert students and teachers about the power of poetry and language last month as this year’s featured guest in the Luke Stone '86 Speaker Series, a valuable learning opportunity for students made possible through the Institute for Leadership & Purpose (ILP).
A highly coveted speaker and scholar, Dr. González visited Calvert for two days on March 30 and 31, during which time he shared his life story and approach to poetry with Tenth Age and Middle School students. Poetry, he said, taught him to be courageous.

“Poetry and words have the power to lift us, and I hope you continue to lift everyone around you through your poetry,” Dr. González told students.

As he shared during two assemblies, Dr. González was born in El Salvador and later came to the United States with his family as a child. Back then, he said, he spoke almost no English, which made expressing himself, dealing with bullies, and understanding the world around him difficult; however, books like Johnny Tremain and authors like Shakespeare inspired him to find words he needed. 

Today, Dr. González is an acclaimed poet, author, editor, professor, and Fulbright scholar who holds a PhD in English. His work has been anthologized in the Norton Introduction to Literature and featured at the National Museum of American History – as part of the museum’s premiere Latinx exhibit.

“Poetry taught me that all those that people were making fun of me for, all those things that I got beat up about, all those things I needed to take pride in – through poetry; that was the only way I could make my message clear,” González shared.

After beginning each day with a multi-grade assembly, Dr. González visited English classes to further discuss his philosophy and engage with students in smaller groups. To cap off his visit, Dr. González also met with Seventh and Eighth Grade members of the Allies group for a hands-on poetry workshop where each student was asked to forge a poem around a piece of media of their choice. On March 31, the students shared their poems with Dr. González and each other in a safe, welcoming performance space.

As well, Dr. González broke down the basics of poetry for the younger students, speaking to them in terms of imagery and asking them to consider their word choices. Words can be so powerful and descriptive, he said, that readers should be able to clearly picture a poem’s scene unfolding in front of them.

Thank you to Director of Academic Affairs Sarah A. Crowley, Director of the Institute for Leadership & Purpose Sarah DeCamps, and Dr. José B. González for making this day possible. The Luke Stone ’86 Speaker Series is an Institute for Leadership & Purpose program sponsored by a donation from the Kahlert Foundation.

Click here to learn more about Dr. José B. González and the Luke Stone ’86 Speaker Series.
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.