Poetry offers a creative outlet for writers to explore their emotions, experiences, and dreams for the future. It offers extraordinary literary freedom. It can look and sound like anything the author wants—it could rhyme (or not), it could be a haiku with short and simple syllables, or it could be a song written longer with a repetitive chorus. The point is for writers to choose words wisely, hone in on their message, and just write. 


Ink Knows No Borders, edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond, includes 64 poems by poets worldwide about all topics surrounding immigration and refugee experiences—language and cultural differences, homesickness, social exclusion, racism, and stereotyping, but also joy, family, and safety. 


The best way to use this collection is to have students flip through pages and land on what strikes them most. Students might stumble across an entire poem that affects them, or they might find a powerful line that jumps off the page. Either way, exploring this book with no rules is key to truly hearing the words of the immigrant and refugee poets. A few lines that stood out to me are below.


“We are driving away from impending war.

We are driving away

because we can leave

On the magic carpet of our navy blue

US passports that carry us to safety…” 

—Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, “Immigrant” (3–5)


“...laughter not needing translation as it surfaced.” 

—Michelle Brittan Rosado, “Fluency” (38)


“Though year after year 

she makes flowers bloom in the hood,

petals in the face of this land

that doesn’t want her here.” 

—Bao Phi, “Frank’s Nursery and Crafts” (53)


“The border is a locked door that has been promoted.” 

—Alberto Rios, “The Border: A Double Sonnett” (110)


  • Have students read at least three poems from Ink Knows No Borders and write down at least one impactful line from each poem.
  • Have students choose one poem and a line from which they can create an artistic representation.

    • For example: “...laughter not needing translation as it surfaced” from Brittan Rosado’s poem “Fluency” could create a beautiful image of multiple people laughing over the phone in various countries with the same pronunciation and spelling as “ha ha” and smiling like the poem describes.

  • Have students choose their art form—hand drawn/colored/painted, graphically designed using computer programs, or another artistic form. Gather supplies as needed.

  •  Create this line visually to represent the immigration and refugee experience. Make sure students incorporate the line artistically as a part of their visual representation.
    • The line “...laughter not needing translation as it surfaced” could be floated throughout the speech bubble of laughs.
  • Once finished, have students share their completed artwork with the classroom, explaining the meaning behind their pieces. 


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Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.