Ten students, three poems each, three minutes at the microphone per round, three rounds. Today we slam. Student poets have been preparing for the slam since February. Local poet, Natalia (or My Verse to poets), from Spoken Word Press visited each week for "poetry club." Spoken Word Press is doing amazing work in the community--grant funded, founder Jolanda Blackmon (or Blu Bailey to poets) works with high school teachers to recruit and develop youth. She is also the brains beind the Orange County Poetry Slam Jam, a county-wide slam featuring the top two poets from each of the 6 participating high schools. The support of Spoken Word Press and My Verse's weekly visits were quite a gift.
Another gift this poetry season was our visit from notable poets, Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger. Sara and Michael got right down to business with student poets*. We started with a read-around--so that we could let the pros get to coachng. Joseph bravely volunteered to go first. He bulldozed his first piece--steamed through pauses and lacked emphasis. To teach him how to slow it down,Michael had Joseph do his poem as if he were reading it to a pre-school class. Can I tell you how I tickled I was that Joseph took to the challenge--his whole face changed. His eyes opened wider, his lips moved with more intention. You could see the change. Joseph didn't read the entire piece, Michael stopped him maybe 1/2 way--a coaching move that I later realized was key .The third reading Michael asked Joseh to do was in the voice of a pirate. A pirate! Michael even spoke pirate to make clear his demand. Joseph, our Bronx native, our only senior, ran with it. Again his face changed, his voice dropped, his pacing immediately slowed (hard to freight train while speaking Pirate). Pricelss.
Off to school! It's going to big a big day today!
*Sara and Michael's voice lessons and performance exercises are noted in their book Outspoken.