CONTENT WARNING: Contains descriptions of physical violence with specific descriptions of gun violence.

What We Learn In School

Poetry, Image

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This poem addresses gun violence, more specifically, school shootings. The poem is meant to show the endless nature of this problem and how it seems to keep repeating itself over and over again with no change. There is a lot of anger within this poem, and that anger is reflective of my genuine anger, but the way I approached this project was to take that anger and have it take more of “quiet anger” form.


Theo Van Hof, Senior at Michigan State studying Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.


When I saw the microgrant opportunity pop up in my email I thought, “what the hell could I possibly submit for that?” I had no idea what I would submit, but I liked the idea that I could be the type of person who applies for grants. This was my first time ever submitting myself and my work for anything and I never expected to get this opportunity, but when I saw the email, I realized that I had an idea of a project I wanted to work on and I figured, “fuck it, why not try.” I think I submitted my proposal on the very last day that applications were open, and it was a spontaneous decision, born out of a desire to create simply for the sake of it, but what the grant offered me was a permission structure to work on a project I had avoided working on.

The reason I avoided working on this project prior to receiving the grant was because of the subject matter. I had done a lot of reflecting since the shooting that ravaged MSU last spring, and I kept writing about it and writing about it, but I never felt like it was structured enough for me to feel like it was a good or complete reflection. What the grant said to me was that this was my time to finally and fully reflect on my anger, sadness, and ultimately the numbness I have been feeling since February. It allowed me to focus on what I wanted to create and to create something that felt important and genuine to me, and it gave me the time I needed to reflect, which was something I felt like I was missing prior to working on my poem for this grant. 

I hope that moving forward CAL will continue to offer this opportunity for students. This was a great opportunity for me to push myself past what I normally write and that would not have happened if not for this grant. This particular project was important for me to work on personally, but it was also a chance to put my work out there for the first time and I am excited to see people’s reactions to my piece. More than that though, I am super excited to see all the amazing art the other winners have produced because of this grant.