The literary arts has been in my blood since as long as I can remember, even pre-Bar Mitzvah. I've always been a voracious writer and a non-stop writer. I wrote novels in junior high, short story collections in high school. But as much as I clamoured to writing and reading, I felt abandoned in high school...Where were the units on modern poetry, on edgy prose, on stuff I could relate to?
That's why I have pivoted in my career to include arts education. For 7 years or so, I've been dabbling in teaching spoken word to students in schools across the GTA, but now I'm going all-in. Spoken word has never been so popular as it is now, and I have see how youth across Canada have been diving deep into poetry slams and spoken word artistry. And wow, they are amazingly talented, so much so I feel pressured to get writing new pieces just to keep up!
When I come into a classroom to teach spoken word to teens, I always tell them what they're about to hear (from myself, from poets on YouTube) is not poetry by dead white people like Shakespeare. I explain how schools have to be forward-thinking to invite spoken word to their classrooms in order to offer students the full range of poetic brilliance available to us today.
And those students' faces light up when they learn how poetry can speak to their joys and struggles, their stories and communities. It's truly a wondrous sight. Having kids perform stunning pieces of poetry after a workshop is undoubtedly one of the greatest joys I experience in my career, thanks to creative kids who want to share their voice with their peers. That's one of the reasons why Toronto Poetry Project's BAM Youth Slam has become so popular for youth in Toronto.
I'm not sure if these students would be exposed to spoken word if I didn't get invited to their schools by open-minded teachers. I like what Andrew Simmons wrote about the value of teaching poetry to students for The Atlantic: "Poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing. It can help teach skills that come in handy with other kinds of writing—like precise, economical diction, for example."
So if you're interested in what poetry can do for a room full of kids who hate capital-P "Poetry", I'm available to answer any questions you might have. Give me a shout via the Contact form here.
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