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Episode 94: Rhyme Time as Students Find Passion Performing Slam Poetry

It is a performance filled with passion involving writing, rhyme, alliteration, metaphors and in many cases audience participation.

On this episode of the Supercast, find out why so many students are using Slam poetry to express themselves and the way they look at life. Poetry slams are a big hit and we head to South Jordan Middle School to find out why.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
It's a performance filled with deep emotion involving writing rhyme, alliteration, metaphors, and in many cases, audience participation. On this episode of the Supercast, find out why so many students are using slam poetry to express themselves and the way they look at life. Poetry slams are a big hit right now. And we head to South Jordan Middle School to find out why.

Student:
My name is Jackson Miller. And my poem is called Middle School.
Driving traffic. The obnoxious, babbling and blaring of car horns.
Angry, agitated, and aggravated, the light remains red,
Struggling to find those who feel similar.
The light will turn green anytime now
I'll be home. Okay.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell us a little bit about your poem.

Student:
Um, well I thought a lot about it and I decided to do it on middle school because it's middle school. I have a lot of feelings about middle school so I figured it'd be easiest just to write it about that. And I got some help from Mr. Baney. I got some help from some teachers. But, it's about kind of the struggle of being in middle school and how it can be hard to function with everything happening in drama and emotions and our body's changing. And sometimes you just feel like you're kind of stuck in place and you can't really go anywhere. But at the end I kind of tried wrapping it up saying I'm almost out of middle school. I'll be in high school soon

Anthony Godfrey:
And how does it feel to look at the page and see that with some help, you've been able to put those feelings into words.

Student:
It feels amazing. It feels great. I'm so, so glad I got to do this and I'm going to continue doing poetry and improve.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's great to hear. Are you looking forward to high school?

Student:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you'll be at Bingham next year?

Student:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Well, best of luck and keep that poetry flowing with you. Great job.

Student:
This is Just Kids by myself, Emily Johnson.
The warm ocean breeze brushes against my arms and knees like getting stung by a thousand bees.
But bees seem like smiles and happy trees.
The trees quake and seemed to say, "Stay with me and dream".
As bright eyes kids, we fit under the stars that gleam,
Wondering why can't we just stay out here and blow off a little more steam?
But the alarm, she rings a little different this time when the original bee stings,
Signaling that the school bell still dings and dings and dings.
A constant goal of one day receiving a wage.
You're just kids stop thinking about that at this age.
But no, go pick out a career that determines every last page.
We get burnt out and caught up as you cry,
Trying to explain to these authority figures that we really do try.
But these feelings sit in our consciousness like a little white lie.
We come home and do our work as if put under a spell or potion,
Then lay in bed, longing for sounds of the ocean.
Not so ready to wake up in the morning and go through the exact same motion.

Anthony Godfrey:
Emily, tell me about the poem that you recited today.

Student:
I wrote a poem called Just Kids and it's about the pressures of being a young student and like having so much pressure to be older than you are and growing up so fast.

Anthony Godfrey:
I thought it had a really nice cadence and flow to it. Is there a favorite phrase or favorite imagery in that poem?

Student:
Well, I really liked the bees stinging part. Bees sting because when I was younger I got stung by a lot of bees. So it's kind of cadence to that. Just like I feel back to my childhood. And it can be a good thing too because bee stings, like smiles, can feel so many things. So I really liked using that phrase.

Anthony:
Yeah. And you were able to really evoke the sound of a bell ringing and the day going on and on and on. What was the phrase you used?

Student:
The school bell still dings and dings and dings.

Anthony Godfrey:
And the way you paused when you read, when you recited it and all of that, you did a very nice job on that. What does poetry mean to you, reading it and creating it?

Student:
I kind of created it. I was having a really hard time with school and I just not doing well mentally. And it was like 2:00 AM and I was like, there's a poetry thing coming up. I should write something. So it like really was just raw emotion that I just put on paper. It was a lot of feelings.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's obvious that it really came from a place of personal experience. Okay. Thank you.

Stay with us. When we come back, we'll talk with one of the judges. She'll tell us what makes a poetry slam performance rise above the rest.

Break:
It is one of the most prestigious academic achievement programs available for high school students. And we're proud to say, it's coming back to Jordan School District. We're talking about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which will be located at West Jordan High School. The IB Program supports personal and academic achievement for students at the very highest level. IB diploma courses take place during a student's junior and senior year in high school. All sophomores are invited to consider the IB Program for next year. There are no prerequisites for IB and interested middle school students can start preparing. Students with the IB diploma have a better chance at getting into some of the most prestigious universities in the world. For more information, or to find out if your teen is a good candidate for IB, visit http://ib.jordandistrict.org, or call West Jordan High School.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're here at South Jordan Middle School talking with Cindy Mitchell, the librarian here, and also personally in charge of the Poetry Out Loud competition. Tell us a little bit about that.

Cindy:
So Poetry Out Loud originally is a national competition for performance poetry, where you memorize an official poem from their collection and then compete, based on your interpretation and recitation of the poem. Here at South Jordan Middle, however, we are focused on original poetry performance. So most of the students that entered have written their own poems, and then we've given them a forum. So it's a little Poetry Slam without all the interaction from the audience and a little bit of Poetry Out Lous.

Anthony Godfrey:
How do students sign up to participate?

Cindy:
This was totally at their own discretion. They just came by and filled out a slip and if they could fit in. So what we did was we had three weeks of competition. Each week for the first three rounds, we had new poems each of those weeks and we choose the top three from each week to perform today. We had nine original poets perform, and we didn't have as many performance poets. So we only had five performance poems today.

Anthony Godfrey:
And how long has this been going on at South Jordan Middle?

Cindy:
This is our first year. And it's going to be more after this. I really enjoyed it. I have to tell you, I've been playing with this idea for about four years or so. And this year, since it was such a different year, I decided I'm just going to do it. We need something for kids who want to perform. And April is National Poetry Month. I couldn't put my magnetic poetry on my wall. I have a gigantic blank wall in the library, and I had magnetic quote, quote, quote, unquote, poetry, ready to go on that wall. And I couldn't do that. So I thought, I'm just going to dive in. We're going to do Poetry Out Loud.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I think it's exciting for students to have the chance to do this. And one of the great skills we try to teach students is self-expression and being thoughtful, introspective about how they're feeling and how to express that. And poetry does a great job of doing that.

Anthony Godfrey:
I think if you get a chance to listen to some of the poems, you'll see that they basically come from a very personal space and that the kids are talking about what is important to them right now. And that's what I loved about it. I don't think that these students are just good for middle school poets. I think they are really good at poetry.

Anthony Godfrey:
I would agree. Great stuff, from the heart and definitely reflective of their experience right now.

Cindy:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Lots of these kids were really passionate about the poems that they performed. How did that make you feel?

Cindy:
As the librarian, I don't interact with them necessarily on a daily basis, like in the classroom and especially not as their Language Arts teacher. So for me to know that they are willing to come and be so open and raw in this situation was really important for me, because I think that means they also trust me, and that's not necessarily something that I know most of the time. So I really appreciated them being willing to come and share. And it helps me remember that middle school kids, kids at any age, have deep feelings and we need to respect those feelings.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, congrats on putting together a great event that allows students to express themselves and keeps poetry moving forward into the next generation.

Cindy:
Well, thank you. And thank you for coming. We appreciate you coming and sharing a poem with us too.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you. We're here with Brenda Johnson at South Jordan Middle School who has taught a number of the students. She and I were able to judge in the Poetry Out Loud competition.

Brenda:
Yes, indeed.

Anthony Godfrey:
And you taught them Creative Writing in seventh grade.

Brenda:
Some of them, yes. I took on the Creative Writing for a year and I got to teach a lot of the kids that performed today.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me what it feels like to have taught them a year or two ago, and now get to see them perform their poems.

Brenda:
A lot goes into my feelings watching this because when they were in seventh grade, they were just little kids. They were just tiny, and to see them develop and be passionate throughout the year that I had them and develop lot of skills that they get to perform two years later. It's validating in a lot of ways for them. More than anything, to see that their efforts a couple of years ago came through somewhere else and they were able to get some credit and some performance skills to reflect the things that they were writing them when they were younger.

Anthony Godfrey:
I was impressed that they were able to perform poems that they'd written themselves in front of peers with such confidence. That's not an easy thing to do.

Brenda:
It isn't, but I think that as they have developed through the writing process, and having opportunities to perform their emotions. And I think that a lot of the COVID consequences are playing out with them. They're soulful, they're thoughtful, and they are definitely expressing themselves in ways that I've never seen before. So to have an avenue to voice their thoughts and voice their feelings and get through kind of some of their anger, I think it's kind of a wonderful thing for them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I think it's a good self-care skill, just to be thoughtful about how you're feeling and trying to find a way to express that and articulate it.

Brenda:
Absolutely. And I think that poetry is almost a forgotten part of our language. And to see it still alive and these kids and have them be so passionate about it. And to perform it for the first time ever, because they've never done those kinds of things. It's kind of fun. It really is beautiful.

Anthony Godfrey:
It is. It's rewarding. And I got goosebumps more than once, I have to admit.
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see out there.

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