Oct 8, 2015 by



Part 1

In Memory of Irwin Gonshak, Producer of “Poetry-In-The-Morning” on WNYE-FM, Sponsored by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City

There’s a Soul Arising in My Mind is a compilation of student contemplations (prose) juxtaposed with original student poetry. The prose comes from an innovative and progressive form of writing I created called “Contemplation Music Writing.” This pre-poetry project uses music (of all kinds), recall/visualization/reflection/contemplation, writing, and discussion to lead children on peaceful journeys of self-discovery, self-motivation, and self-education. They learn to deal with inner experience through mind-pictures, feelings, and thoughts, all key components necessary for enjoying poetry writing and finding inner peace.

I first introduce kids to inner experience through the “Counting Technique, where they count backwards, slowly by ones, and then describe whatever they discovered inside the mind and imagination. After several practice lessons in counting, I switch to the “Music Technique. In a typical contemplation session students listen to music, relax, and then use the mind’s eye to contemplate experience. Writing follows contemplation. They can write about whatever is experienced inside (there are no writing prompts). Their responses are read aloud during a discussion period and probed, analyzed, and expanded by the teacher and students.

After 8 weeks of Contemplation Music Writing, I introduce poetry reading and writing. The students, mostly Latino and African-American, are ready to make the transition because they have become accustomed to getting into many real/surreal, inner/outer experiences, and expressing them in their contemplations.

The order of presentation for the student anthology is: contemplation—poem—contemplation—poem—contemplation—poem…The reason for juxtaposing the prose and poetry is to show how the writing project is a key preliminary step to understanding and appreciating poetry.

Contemplation #5

While the music was on, I thought about how everybody treats me. I’m a piece of trash like an old newspaper. I am always rejected. Nobody really cares if something happens to me. If I’m having an argument, they try to push me into a fight. They only want to be your friend if you have something. They fight me back with their words and I can’t say anything to them. I have one friend I am always afraid of hurting because she’s a friend of mine. No one wants to be her friend. Sometimes I say to myself, “Life stinks.”


In a playground
children running
they vacate
one by one
a little boy was left
on a seesaw
he gets off and
now I’m alone
alone in a park
with no one beside me
except my shadow
a desolate shadow
fading away


Contemplation #6

Fear is something each of us carries inside ourselves everyday of our lives. When you’re little, you’re scared of the dark. When you’re old, you’re scared of death. You can be afraid of scary movies and you can have the fear of getting hit by a baseball when batting. You fear going to sleep one day and not knowing if you’re going to get up the next. There’s the fear of not knowing whether you’re going to win or lose a big game. You can have the fear of nightmares when you wake up at 3 am all sweaty and anxious to go back to sleep. That’s something that gets you to do childish things like sleeping with the lights on. It’s like smoking cigarettes or doing drugs. Once you do it, you do it again and again. The idea is not to let the fear take you over. You overcome the fear.


The frightened girl
is in her
room with a gun
Because she has
been angry
or years.


Contemplation #14

Today, after lunch, everyone needed something to talk about. Jose went to a girl in another class and asked her if she really kissed me in the second grade. She said “yes.” I feel like killing him for asking her and telling Peter. Now everyone is talking about it and putting me down. I’ll get even.


The world of hate
nobody gets what
they want it’s not
just free you pay cash
I know sometimes you
hate this world but
the world sometimes
is full of hate


Contemplation #9

I was thinking that I went to hell and saw lots of people. I met the Devil and he said, “Greetings,

another customer.” I said, “What do you do down here?” He said, “Make people angry.” “So why am I here?” I said. “I’m not angry. I’m just sick of you making people angry.” Then I saw a dagger and threw it and hit the Devil. He died and there was no such thing as hell anymore.


I hate when
something bad
happens i try
not to take my
anger out on people
sometimes i
just can’t
help it


Contemplation #2

When I closed my eyes, I saw a dream I once had. It was about me and twenty other people who were on a train that kept riding and riding. I looked out the window and watched the houses passing by. Suddenly, the train began going faster and faster. There was no engineer. The train was out of control. The only way out was to jump. The train kept going and going. Each time five people jumped and landed safely. Soon there were no more people left except myself. The train passed my house. I jumped to safety and went home.


wind, sand, storm
to blast us
away from


Contemplation #4

While the music played, I fantasized that I was a candy bar and nobody ever bought me. One day a man walked in the door and asked, “How much is this ‘Snicker’ bar (which was me)?” The clerk said “fifty cents,” and the man bought me. When he got home, he put me into the refrigerator. There I stood for a while and froze. He took me out and he was just about to eat me and I started crying, “Oh please don’t eat me, please.” And then the music shut off and that was the end.


Nothing but shadows
Following me
Everywhere I go
Nothing I can do
Yet nothing I could say
For the shadows still
Follow me


Contemplation #17

As the music played, the walls started to come in on us. We all started screaming. Finally, we were in the middle of the room. The walls, suddenly, stopped moving. And right over us, a bright light appeared. It was like the sun over us. We tried to look for the door, but there was no way out. One of the children said, “Why don’t we try to climb into the bright light?” So we did. We ended up on the roof of the school. Everyone said, “Let’s jump!” So we did, and landed safely. We all decided to walk home. But when each kid got to his house, there was no one, nowhere. It was just us. And we all returned to the front of the school and stood there frightened.


When I go to school
in the morning it’s
quiet but the later it
gets the louder it gets
people are crowded in the
lunchroom little kids are
running all over the school
and getting caught by
a teacher or principal
and getting suspended
for a week while other
kids are playing tackle
football in the lunchroom
and special ed kids chasing
girls around the tables
and auditorium and then the
teachers are yelling and
screaming which makes the
kids and teachers mad.


Contemplation #27

Today I feel like telling the truth. I am having feelings lately about death. You know, I wonder why we were put on earth alive even though we eventually die. Today I felt like dying because I might have brains and muscles, but it feels like I have no heart. Something is beating, but not my heart. It’s a thing and I don’t know what it is. And today, after jogging, I saw myself decreasing in size.


My name is nothing.
My eyes can’t see.
My ears can’t hear.
My mouth can’t talk.
My legs can’t walk.
My hands can’t touch.
My body can’t move.
My heart can’t love.
Nothing can do nothing.
My name is nothing.


Contemplation #29

I have no reason for living. I am kicked around like a playground ball. I don’t even like myself. The world is an ugly place. I feel like committing suicide. I almost did two weeks ago, but didn’t. Today, everything went wrong. If one more thing goes wrong today, I will do it. I will. I swear on my grandmother’s grave. I will!!! My self-esteem is down to zero. If I even feel this way again, it will be too soon. I will kill myself. I mean it. Nobody will care—not even my parents. It’s a free country. I can kill myself, and I will. You can bet on it. I am almost dead anyway. The doctor said I may have to be operated on, but I’m not going to go through with it. That will show the world! You can bet on it. I will kill myself in any way I can!!!!


I’m rocking in a boat
The tide is too
For no particular reason
I jumped into the
Feeling nothing now
But the water rushing
Against my skin
And now
nothing else


Contemplation #32

See, I try to talk freely, but the only person I feel I can talk to—though she is dead—was my mother. My mother was the only one who I felt comfortable talking to. Today, I am thinking how short life is and how sad and mean it can be at times. Life is a kick in the ass. When I saw Maria crying, I remembered when my mother died and I cried for days. When I stopped, I stopped.


in life people must
die while others live
a long life people
should know that life
is just like ink in
a pen it just runs
out and then it is


The subject matter, themes, ideas, and emotions expressed in the contemplations and the poetry include a broad spectrum of inner and outer experiences triggered by the workings of the students’ minds and imaginations as they listened to the music:

emotions/negative/positive/anger/fear/hate/anxiety/panic, isolation/loneliness, bullying, surreal and imaginary worlds, metaphors, abandonment, fantasies, school dreams/, public school, truth, living and dying, revenge, friendship, pain/hurt, justice/fairness, selfesteem, suicide, parents, overcoming fear, guns/devil/hell, nightmares, nothingness, and shadows.

The kids really stuck with the motto of the Contemplation Music Writing Project, which states: “Get into it, and get it out.” Contemplation to music became a release of feelings, thoughts, and mind-pictures (good, bad, or ugly), and, in the end, a project that improved crucial EI/SEL skills of self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-understanding, self-motivation, and self-guidance.

Interested in learning more about “Contemplation Music Writing”? See the following articles on EDUCATION NEWS:

Julianna Lyddon interviewed me about the Contemplation Music Writing Project on the radio show “Connect With Julianna” (Toginet Radio Network). Choose the following links to take you to the podcast page and download it onto your computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.: and Or, go to Connect with Creative Educator and Author, Jeffrey Pflaum 07-06-2012 and download the podcast.

For more information about the Contemplation Music Writing Project, check out my posts on The BAM Radio Network’s blog, ED Words, at

Two related articles/blog posts can be found at The link for “Using ‘Music Writing’ to Trigger Creativity, Awareness and Motivation” (4/2/12) is:

The link for “Build Reading and Writing Skills with Music” (6/6/12) is:

For more background, articles, published student poetry, samples of student contemplation

music writings, themes culled from their contemplations, and supporting documents about the project, please go to the author’s web site at

If you’re interested in programs in mindfulness and contemplation, check out the following:

  • The Mindfulness in Education Network at, and The Association for Mindfulness in Education at, for more information about EI/SEL, and to make connections with other educators and practitioners interested in this vital area.
  • CASEL, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning,, for more information about the different EI/SEL programs across the country.
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