Dear Brenda Hillman,

I am a 8th grade student in Trenton Michigan. I am writing this letter in response to your poem “Autumn Ritual with Hate Turned Sideways."

When I first read this poem I immediately fell in love with the way it was set up, the personification with the letters and the idea of fall. For example: “put that sick A to bed”. I am picturing the letters for the word “HATE” as if the word itself is sick. I think the word “HATE” is cruel and is sick. More people should realize what they are really saying when they use that word.

As a young middle schooler I have experienced first hand mean words from other girls and I too have said words to others I regret. This poem helps to show how hateful words impact others it help to show the true meaning and sickness of the word. I am grateful for poems like these that show how big of an impact words like these have on all people.

Cruel words are becoming more widely used and are causing more problems than ever before. I have heard many stories of bullies and the way they talk to people and i have seen first hand what it can do to people. Any  person who reads this will realize how strong words like hate can be .

Although everyone has experienced unkind words they still can say unkind things. I am very grateful for this poem. I am so excited to share this with my friends and family and I know this will have a large impact on their life and the life of people around them.


Grade 8
Trenton, MI

Dear Rileigh,

Thank you for your intelligent and heartening response to my poem “Autumn Ritual with Hate Turned Sideways.”  I’m really grateful it has found a place in your heart and that you found the elements of the poem meaningful. I’m honored that you might think of sharing it with others. Poetry is shared by word-of-mouth more than any other way.

I am impressed you used a sophisticated word like “personification” to describe one of the strategies of the poem. Since everything in poetry is symbolic to one degree or another, the personification is part of that—I don’t actually think that letters are like people, but I think in a symbolic way they can be.  I don’t know about you, but I have often felt—starting, actually, in middle school—that words and letters seem to have magical qualities, and their materials have force in addition to what they “mean.” We know that there are many different kinds of existence in a piece of art. The shapes of individual letters can be enchanting and energetic in ways that are similar to and apart from human thoughts and feelings.

I’m glad you connected with the visual elements of the piece; I enjoyed thinking about the staircases down to the resting zone. The piece is called a “Ritual” because one of the things I’ve done since I was young is to imagine or meditate on words doing things visually. Sometimes I just set a timer and close my eyes and think about a particular word for a while.  In this poem, the letters descend out of the word HATE because I was thinking they needed a rest from having to bear the “weight of hate.” When I was thinking about the language of oppression before writing this piece, I thought each letter should have relief from evil, injustice and hatred.

As a teacher, mother and grandmother (including some grandchildren in Michigan!) I am sorry to hear that you have experienced mean remarks from your classmates. It sounds as if you are becoming wise and conscious despite all this. Middle school years can be some of the most challenging times because people are trying to get their identities straightened out, and often they can’t think of ways of making themselves stand out in socially healthy ways; instead so they use unsocial ways to get attention from others. Even if you know they have probably seen this sort of hatred in the media they consume, it is hard know how to respond. As someone who is sensitive to language, you will be more alert to this cruelty, as well as to the crimes against the non-human creatures in our world. Please do not be afraid to speak out; I know you will find imaginative ways to write about injustice.

I hope you will take poetry with you on your spiritual path because it is very compact and can fit in your pocket as you work to make the world a better place.  Please find poems you love and share them, and please enjoy the rest of your time in middle school and beyond.

With all my best wishes,

Brenda Hillman

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