So one aspect of life as a spoken word poet that really appeals to me (and to most poets, I think) is the opportuniity to conduct workshops at junior high and high schools. It’s a great way to expand the spoken word audience, and, as one poet put it, you never know if the “next big thing” is sitting in the back of the classroom. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to attend and participate in 3 workshops at local schools, and each one has left me inspired and impressed by the capabilities of the youth culture. This younger generation gives me hope for the future, because it seems that they are not as turned off as perhaps my generation was. They’ve got access to the internet, to youtube, to blogs, and maybe they’re actually learning something instead of just messing around on facebook. I could be wrong, it could just be youthful idealism that is coming out of their pens, and will soon be squashed by the harsh reality of conservative college professors etc… But for now, some of those kids completely blew me away.
One of the workshops I attended was during my time in Ottawa. Danielle Gregoire and Free Will were kind enough to invite me along on their classroom excursion. We sat and watched the kids read poems that they wrote for eachother. One after one, they stood infront of the class, hardly even shaking, singing the praises (although some silly praises) of their peers. As Danielle told me later, there’s so much negativity in the world, particularly the poetry world, that it’s important to give the kids hope and push them to spread messages of positivity. It was awesome.
After all the students were finished, Free Will and I got up and performed a few pieces and talked about how we have been able to succeed doing what we love. After my first poem, this little boy in the front row with wide brown eyes stands up and says “Miss, that was the truest poem I’ve ever heard”.
The truest poem. What a powerful little statement from a little boy. I doubt he knows the weight of his words. Sure, it was such a compliment- any poet would love to hear that from a critic. But it wasn’t the compliment aspect that got me. It was the word “truest” The truest poem. In a conversation later that week with John Akpata, we discussed the duty of a poet. Above all, he says, it is the duty of a poet to be true. There are plenty of fake poets out there- actors posing as poets, poets writing for slams instead of themselves- but the truest poets are the most valuable, and are often most revered and hated. Why? How could someone be respected and at the same time hated for their words? It’s because a true poet holds a mirror to their audience, and forces them to look. No one likes to hear the raw truth- we’re used to blogs and media that is bent with the weight as opinion posing as fact. But can successful art lie? I don’t think so.
Which is why I think it’s great to see poets like Free Will go to schools and speak. His poetry is raw truth. A bit abrasive at times, but always with this deeper intention, pushing for a solution for the worlds problems, empowering the individual. It’s exactly what people being raised in these times of fear need. A few days ago, I got an ecstatic message from Free Will. It seems Canada has many employment programs for poets to travel around to different schools giving workshops, and Will had recieved one such opportunity. I wonder if the States has a similar program. It’s so important to reach the youth nowadays. They’re smarter than we think. I wish he would go on a school tour in the states… i wonder if that’s even possible? Perhaps the revolution will be in the classroom afterall.