“They’re doing a lot more poetry in schools these days,” Neely said. “In the 90s, when my grandchildren were in kindergarten, they moved 80 kilometers from here. I used to see them every day.
He missed them and decided to start making postcards with silly children’s poems on them, sending them out every two weeks.
“It was a fun thing I did for them,” Neely said. “When my oldest granddaughter went to kindergarten, she took my postcards. The teacher asked me to come and be a “real living poet” in the class because they only knew poetry from books. There was no one behind the children’s poems.
She usually read several of his poems, spoke a little poetry, and then encouraged the students to write their own poems.
“The teachers asked this because they said they didn’t know much about poetry,” Neely said. “I would come in and spend about an hour in each class. We had a bullet. I can always go to a Walmart here in Lincoln and every once in a while someone looks at me and says, “Are you my poetry grandma? Yes it’s me.
Neely recalled how her work with students has changed a student’s life.
“My proudest moment doing it was when a little third grader came to me in the hallway before class,” she said. “He said to me, ‘I wrote a poem this summer. And he won an award. It was a kid who, the year before, had said: “I don’t do poetry”.