This Is Rutherford
This is Nina-Rose Barcenas
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Nina-Rose Barcenas
Not only has Nina-Rose Barcenas made a career out of her love for literature, poetry, and inspiring others, specifically her high school students, but she has also found another way to inspire and cultivate hope among others as well. This past month, Nina-Rose's book of poetry was published. This is Rutherford spoke with Nina-Rose about how her life experiences, her role as an English teacher, and her recently published book.
TIR: How long have you been teaching in the Rutherford School District?
Nina-Rose Barcenas: After growing up in Rutherford and still being a resident, I knew I always wanted to be a teacher in the district that provided me with so much knowledge and so many opportunities. I was lucky to land my dream job and so I am currently in my second year of teaching at RHS where I am teaching 10th and 11th grade English.
TIR: How long have you been writing poetry?
NRB: I have been writing poetry for the majority of my life, just simply writing little thoughts in my Notes app on my phone. It has always been a creative outlet, ever since I stopped dancing after high school. I would say it has become a prevalent form of expression throughout the last 5 years of my life when dealing with strangers through interactions and wanting to gain clarity during various situations.
TIR: What made you decide to publish a book of poetry?
NRB: Over the last 5 years, I was writing more than usual and I felt like my voice needed to be extended to the public for those who may internalize their feelings and emotions and may not know how to verbalize them. I used my downtime during our Covid year to start piecing together my story and construct my realization of the values and standards I accumulated for myself based on the lessons and blessings of interactions I experienced.
TIR: Based on the book description it seems you have written very relatable poetry. How do you hope your poetry affects others?
NRB: My hope for the poetry book I have written is to relate and connect with those who may be struggling with finding themselves in relationships, situations, or friendships. My goal is for others to not feel so alone when going through the rollercoaster of life and interactions and to know that all the emotions they are feeling all at once are valid and normal and that there is always light guiding you in the right directions, hence the lighthouse. Secondly, for individuals to realize they may not always get the answers and closure they ask for, but for them to gather as much realization as they are able to about themselves, then they can distinguish which interaction was meant to be a lesson or blessing, and it happened for a reason.
TIR: Creative expression through writing must be important to you. How do you try to inspire your students to express themselves through writing?
NRB: One major concept I introduced to my students on the first day of school and told them to carry with them through the school year and life was perspective. I explained that their perspective is valid and necessary, but also being able to listen to others' perspectives is just as important. In using this idea, I have made it a point to ensure that creative writing contains a major component which is perspective, how there is no right or wrong way to express your emotions or feelings. With my juniors during Poetry Month, we did one specific activity that stood out where I had the students maneuver their desks into a circle and handed each student a blank piece of paper. I instructed them to write a title on that sheet and underline it, it could've been one word, a concept, an idea, a sentence, a question, etc. Then I told them that they weren't going to be the ones constructing the root of the poem, but their classmates were going to. We'd pass the papers 3 times to the right, then 6 times, then 7 times, and so on, incorporating various criteria like literary devices or just simply an idea that came to mind. By the end, we passed the papers back to the original title creator and I had the students read them to themselves and then share them with the class. After all the reading concluded, I asked them simply if what they read matched the initial thought they had for the poem when they wrote the title on the page and the majority of them said no. I then explained how that is how creative writing, especially poetry, evokes perspective; how we each experience life and situations differently, but we all ultimately relate in our own ways and can create something beautiful, something we didn't initially think of, and how there is no right or wrong way for it to arise.
TIR: What else would you like us to know about your poetry and the book?
NRB: My poetry book is simply just my examination of personal and raw interactions I have experienced throughout my life and realizing each of those interactions happened for a reason. The majority of the poems have stemmed from moments of instinct and have become my outlet to realize what I extracted from the interaction. My book examines the lessons and blessings of each interaction, what I have learned and gained and how I will move forward. This was my closure to start fresh. The last page states a thank you to those I have been lucky to interact with and propels my view for myself in the future to find exactly what I am looking for and what exceeds my standards and simply find what I truly desire. These poems have never been shown to anyone, they've always just been my overthinking and overanalyzing thoughts that I have kept to myself, but I finally decided to share them with the world. My poetry book is meant to be a signal for those and a glimmer of hope for anyone else who may need it, in order to know that their standards are valid and no one should settle for anything less than the butterflies and everything in between. Aside from the content of the book, the cover is also a meaningful representation. The cover is a picture I took myself of the Cape May Lighthouse after sunset. Lighthouses have always been a beacon of hope and light in my life and have allowed me to know that there is always light shining in order to guide you and that you just have to be up for the journey. This was my journey to finding myself, my value, my worth, and ultimately my future.