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April 19th, 2019

spoken word

We'd looked at "quiet" poetry earlier--the sort you read to yourself in books--and so I brought in some recordings of poetry being performed for my students to react to and think about.

I played them Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's "Tell Them," and felt a warm glow as they reacted visibly to her lines about Styrofoam cups and dusty rubber slippers, and my favorite line, about the children flinging like rubber bands across the street. And then when I asked them which lines stuck with them, they had so many others they loved too--the curling letters, "toasted dark brown as the carved ribs of a tree stump," "the breath of God," "papaya golden sunsets" ... and "the ocean level with the land" and "we see what is in our own back yard."

They heard what her poem said.

I played them Elizabeth Acevedo performing "Night Before First Day of School, the opening poem to her novel-in-poems, The Poet X (which I'm reading--except I lent it out to one of the students), and they loved "I feel too small for all that is inside me."

I played them Laurie Anderson's "From the Air," and several students fell in love with it. What's it about, I asked, and some talked about a plane and a crash, but several said, "It's about more than that. It's about living your life--'there is no pilot': you're the pilot. But you're not alone."

I played them Billy Collins reading "Monday," and they got his teasing affection for poetry and poets.

--I should have asked them if they noticed the boys angling across the street... in context, an echo of Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner's poem.

And then we turned to some Tupac Shakur raps. The students range in age from 22 to 55, mainly White, but everyone knew those raps. They recited right along with them, and by the end of "Dear Mama," several were in tears--I think maybe not just for the love in it, but because that love came in spite of the fact that Tupac's mom was an addict. In that piece he's acknowledging all she's gone through and asserting that he loves her as she is. **Many** of my students really want that to be possible for them, with their kids.

I felt like I had wandered into a room so much bigger than I had imagined.

"He's not dead," one student said stoutly. Yeah. Sometimes your presence and your creation is so meaningful that even death can't decommission you.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/910806.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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