Friday, August 16, 2013

Poetry for Our Toughest Critics

Working with Americorp, I met more than a handful of students that long ago lost faith in the good of the world and here I was, just another "adult" trying to engage them in topics they could care less about. Fresh out of college (with the face and energy of a 12 year-old), I had no idea how to earn the respect of these "kids" who had experienced more in their 16 years than I could ever imagine. With histories of juvenile detention, abandoned parents and looming bills, I knew it would take more than a well thought-out lesson plan to connect with these young people. After listening to their stories, I discovered the power of poetry. Now, I'm not a poet myself. I hated the very idea of poetry. To me, there was no meaning. I never understood it. I never connected with it. Well, perhaps, I was just never presented with the "right" kind of poetry... Together, with a room full of rough and tough teenagers, stemming from a conversation about our favorite music, we explored the idea of music as poetry. And it changed everything. It opened their eyes to poetry, it opened my mind to poetry and it opened my heart to teaching through understanding, connection and compassion. What sparked it all? Daniel Beaty's "Knock Knock" piece with Def Jam Poetry. Not song lyrics per say, but powerless, nonetheless.


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