November 15, 2011

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:41 pm by a care in the world

It’s been almost 12 weeks since my last post… that should give you some idea of how exhaustingly busy my life has been. My husband and I are immersed in the most challenging, most consuming, and– at least for me– the most fulfilling work we’ve ever done. I’m loving teaching, even if I devote way too many hours to planning, grading, and worrying over my students. We finally reached the end of the trimester and today was the last day of exams. Tomorrow we start mini-terms– 5 days of teaching whatever our little hearts desire, and students sign up for anything that catches their eyes. I’m teaching Gothic Lit and Slam Poetry for the next few days. I’m really excited about introducing a group of middle schoolers to the world of Gothic poetry and short stories and seeing what catches on.

I’m even more excited about finally getting to use slam poetry and hip hop theater in the classroom with a group of high schoolers. I’ve even got the slam poetry team from Davidson College coming to do a writing workshop with us– it’s gonna be awesome. All I want to do is go at this with all the energy and confidence I have, and pray that my students will approach the class with open minds. My greatest fear in this area is always that people with more diverse backgrounds, from whence hip hop comes, will look at me as a silly white girl co-opting their culture. I mean, look at me– I just said “whence.” Can a girl with a Eurocentric, Shakespeare-driven, Renaissance-art-loving background really embrace the language, stories and struggles of urban minorities? I don’t claim to understand it, I just think it’s important to read those stories and hear those voices and acknowledge those issues. I love that people use art to express themselves– it can be such a powerful medium and can allow for conversations that politics would kill. I don’t know if I’ll start with this poem, but it’s one I keep coming back to…

June 15, 2011

Spoken Word Poetry

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:44 pm by a care in the world

One of my favorite cultural experiences in New York City has been spoken word poetry. I was introduced to this art form when studying hip hop theater in college, but I first saw it performed here, at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Often performed by poets of color, spoken word or “slam” poetry brings to light the gritty realities that black and brown people live with every day. Dangerous neighborhoods, crime, drugs, injustice, police brutality, racism, and domestic violence are just a few of the issues that these poets present in stark, beautiful language. Powerful imagery pulls you into the poet’s world and forces you to listen to what they have to say, and I’m blown away by the courage they have in saying it. Here are some of my favorites:

And to finish with something a little lighter:

Tonight I participated in a workshop on bringing spoken word poetry into the classroom, as a way to build and encourage student voices, to value student background and cultures, and to provide a safe space for student stories. I was asked to write a poem about my neighborhood. It’s nothing special, but I thought I would share.

My neighborhood was safe.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it now.
Full of cliched memories– fireflies and kickball and climbing trees.
Life was easy. I didn’t know what the world was like.
My father taught me Shakespeare and Renaissance Art.
My mother taught me the tricks of advertising so I would never be fooled by commercials promising the next best thing.
I was taught to be discerning in my tastes, to live a life of the mind… but not so much a life of the world.

My neighborhood was safe.
I played with my friends in the street and no one ever got hurt.
I went to school with people like me to learn from people like me
Reading writers like me who wrote about people like me.
I thought I knew a lot.
I was never questioned or threatened or judged; not really.
My neighborhood was safe.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it now.

I spend my time now with kids whose neighborhoods are not safe,
And I don’t know how to relate;
What to say.
What I could possibly say that they’d want or need to hear?
I was a child when I was young, and these are not children. They have seen too much.
My neighborhood was safe.

**As requested, here are the words to the poem “Foster Bears” above. I’m sorry the video quality is so poor, but the poem itself is beautiful.