Posts Tagged ‘spoken word’

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Spoken Word

September 7, 2020

Brandon Leake – America’s Got Talent

I’ve been thinking, listening, reading, having conversations and researching on how to address racial justice in my teaching and learning. I think the world works in magical ways when ‘stuff’ happens that I’m not looking for. And sometimes ‘different stuff’ intersects which, in this case, has led to this blog post.

First I want to say that my favorite podcast at the moment is Cult of Pedagogy started by a middle school Language Arts teacher Jennifer Gonzalez. Jennifer has brought together an experienced group of educators who help make the Cult of Pedagogy. If you’re looking for a podcast that will push on your thinking and curious where you might find ideas that are sometimes raw and grounded in reality combined with thoughtful educational research, then I suggest that you check out Cult of Pedagogy. Many of the episodes are Jennifer’s interviews with teachers, learning experts, parents, and other people who make things happen in education. There are a handful on the social justice topic. If you’d rather read than listen, each new episode comes out also in an email, on Sunday’s. You can learn about all that she has to offer and sign up for her weekly emails on the START HERE PAGE. An example of the podcast resources that Jennifer provides is episode #147 Why White Students Need Multicultural and Social Justice Education  from June 7th an interview with Sheldon Eakins who founded the Leading Equity Center, an online resource for educators.

I was first introduced to poetry by my 7th grade language arts teacher Mrs. Leeds. Each week on Friday we would learn about a poem, write it down in our poetry notebook, and over the next week memorize it and each student in my class would stand and recite it. I can dig into my memory today and recite Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and probably a few others. Every so often I rediscover my poetry notebook and think about how nervous I was standing up in my front my class. I don’t recall actually learning how to recite poetry. We’ve come a long way in this area; now we have poetry slams, hip hop, jazz poetry, beat poetry, spoken word, and Poetry Out Loud (POL). POL is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. The Maine Arts Commission administers the recitation program.

I’ve been curious for some time about how ‘poetry’ has, for the most part, been taught in English or language arts class. Why poetry is considered an art form yet in schools we don’t include it when we reference visual and performing arts. In our standards documents it’s not clearly defined as part of the arts. When I try putting poetry in context I explain it like this: in schools poetry is behind the English teaching door and in the real world it is part of the performance arena.

I wanted to better understand this separation so I did a little sleuthing on the internet and, of course, I start with the Greeks. From the Ancient Greek word ποιεω (pronounced poieo) which means ‘I create’. Definition: an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. In most poetry, it is the connotations and the “baggage” that words carry (the weight of words) that are most important. Poetry.org.

And further on about ‘spoken word’. Spoken word is poetry, and more recently spoken word poetic performance art that is word-based. It is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play such as intonation and voice inflection. It is a “catchall” term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud… Unlike written poetry, it has less to do with physical, on the page aesthetics and more to do with phonaesthetics, or the aesthetics of sound. Wikipedia

A focus on words, sounds, presentations and performances using poetry has become more prevalent in our society since about the 1980’s but certainly it is embedded and has been for years in many cultures and their traditions. The connection between poetry as a performance and music is closely aligned.

In fact, in Ancient Greece, the spoken word was the most trusted repository for the best of their thought, and inducements would be offered to men (such as the rhapsodes) who set themselves the task of developing minds capable of retaining and voices capable of communicating the treasures of their culture.

I think poetry’s biggest potential is to light kids up and engage them in learning about themselves and the world. If only Mrs. Leeds had someone guide her in the pedagogy of teaching poetry. A good reason to promote integrated curriculum.

Here’s where the intersection of learning takes place for me. On my phone last week a video from America’s Got Talent popped up. A powerful performance by Spoken Word Artist Brandon Leake began to help me formulate curriculum for racial justice. You can LEARN more about Brandon and the organization he established Called to Move. I suggest using Brandon’s performance with your students.

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In Today’s News

August 13, 2018

Ashley Bryan

Bob Keyes article in the Maine Sunday Telegram provides the latest news on Ashley Bryan. His show opened recently at the Portland Museum of Art and it is fantastic. At age 95 Ashley is working on a number of books and is planning on one being completed within the month. It is a book of collages based on Christina Rosetti’s poems. He’s also working on a larger project based on his time during WWII when he served in the segregated Army. Seventy four years ago he was at Omaha Beach.

I was very excited to read that he is working with Maine composer Aaron Robinson who happens to be a former student of mine. They are collaborating on an African-American requiem for chamber orchestra, choir and spoken voice.

He’s calling it “A Tender Bridge: An African American Requiem,” based on a Bryan quote: “I always confuse the past and the future, the way I mix up death and life – they are connected only by a tender bridge. This is why stories are at the heart of civilization.”

Plan to take your students to the museum for the show and watch for information on the performance of one of Ashley’s books scheduled for the end of October.

READ the entire article.

“Oh, When the Children Sing in Peace,” 2006, collage of cut colored paper on paper, from “Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals,” 12 by 20 inches. Photo from Portland Museum of Art

 

 

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POL State Champ

June 26, 2014

Gorham High School graduate

This year Charlotte Feinberg represented Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington D.C. during March. In order to earn the trip to D.C., Charlotte had to recite many many poems. Charlotte loves poetry and as a matter of fact she has many passions. Charlotte graduated from Gorham High School this year. Charlotte was kind enough to answer some questions for this blog post. The Maine Arts Commission wishes Charlotte well as she moves on to the next chapter of her life. We know she’ll continue making her mark on the world!

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Charlotte reciting at the National Poetry Out Loud competition.

 

What prompted you to participate in POL?
My English teacher Kerry Herlihy encouraged me to participate. Being a writer she assumed it was right up my alley, I thought I’d give it a try.

Name the 3 things that you learned or impacted you.

  1. The performance experience I gained was immense, I had performed my own poetry before but the memorization and performance process really strengthened me as a speaker.
  2. I also learned excellent memorization skills.
  3. The thing that impacted me the most was my connection to the poetry, the entire process allowed me to understand and truly love the poems that I had been performing.

What was the greatest challenge with you POL experience?
My nerves were rough, between dancing and poetry I was no stranger to being on stage but the memorization aspect made it especially tough.

What kind of support did you receive and who provided it?
Kerry Herlihy was an incredible support to me throughout the entire process. Encouraging me and keeping me calm and making me laugh. David Patterson really helped with my understanding of the poems, especially “When you are Old” by William Butler Yeats.

What advice would you give to other students who are thinking about participating in POL in the future?
Choose poems that you care about, disregard any ideas about what you think will aid you in the sense of competition and stick with things you can connect to on a personal level.

What was your greatest success?
Conquering my stage fright and being able to perform in a way I never had before.

What is your long-term take-away?
I’ll always have a connection to my poems, and a true appreciation for the power of spoken word.

Thousands of students participated in Poetry Out Loud at the local, regional, and state level in Maine during the 2013-14 school year. This year 365,000 students across the country participated in POL. The POL program is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and is administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission. Materials will be available in September for next year. If you are interested in participating please contact argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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