Since the founding of the Theater and Poetry Project, international award-winning poet Laura Boss has been a vital part of the Poets-in-the-Schools program. Year after year, she took on every workshop offered to her, and shared her kindness, grace, and thoughtfulness with Paterson youth.
Laura had a special way of gently challenging students to be more curious about reading and writing. During a workshop with a group of bilingual 3rd graders from The Roberto Clemente School, Laura was warned beforehand that the language barrier might make it difficult for her to engage the students.
Having been present for observation, I recall her asking the class to find words that describe something bright. She got them started by throwing words into the air until one in particular struck a chord: luminous. Half the classroom began clamoring about how luminous sounds like luminoso, the Spanish word for bright. Suddenly a luminous bulb went off above every child’s head and more importantly, they made a connection with poetry.
During another set of workshops with a group of 5th graders from the same school, Laura was again warned beforehand that the students might be apathetic and uninterested. Undeterred, Laura understood that if students were showing no interest in the classroom, it had to be because of personal issues they were dealing with which made it hard to focus.
According to the librarian at Roberto Clemente, Mrs. Pio, Laura’s workshop was the breakthrough needed fo
r students to open up. So much so that some cried while writing their poems. Despite the fact that they wrote poems too late to be judged for the 2020 Paterson Student Poetry Contest, their teacher put together a short clip showcasing their achievement.
For Laura, it was an honor to spend time working with Paterson students. She knew how important it was for them to have access to creative outlets, and believed that poetry had the power to save lives. She was a rare artist—a delight to work with and learn from.
Laura accomplished many achievements throughout her career as a poet, including authoring seven books, founding and editing Lips Magazine, and winning numerous poetry awards both in the United States and abroad.
On April 9
, Laura Boss died after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. She taught her last set series of workshops with the Paterson Schools virtually in January 2021 with Ms. Colella’s 4th grade students from PPS #28. Laura’s kindness radiated even from behind a screen, and was able to make a profound impact. Ms. Colella and her students were saddened to hear about Laura’s passing, and offered to share their thoughts in tribute to her.