To what extent do our stories shape how we know and act in the world? What kinds of stories are we incapable of telling, hearing or understanding?
These questions guided our conversation of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Poisonwood Bible, with context from Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of the Single Story” and the #oscarssowhite hashtag. We were fortunate to have Ms. Carraway, Loudoun School’s French teacher sit in. Students dropped references to Aristotle, Socrates, Mikhail Bakhtin, Saidiya Hartman and Suzan-Lori Parks. I learn deeply every day I work with these kids.
Performance artist, educator, and poetryN.O.W. co-founder Joseph Green introducing the student poets who made it to the finals of the Hyper Bole.
poetryN.O.W. hosted its annual youth poetry slam and festival at George Mason University this past weekend, and I was able to attend for the first time with a student and her dad. The organization was started by an English teacher and a forensics coach at Hayfield Secondary in 2010. Its website explains that poetryN.O.W.
is a Northern Virginia based organization that assists schools in developing their own poetry programs, programs that focus on creative writing and performance, but also on the use of the power of art and testimony to bridge the gap between students from all walks of life.
I got to spend the day with students from all over the DMV and their committed, talented mentors and was moved – as an English teacher, as a human being – by this community’s faith in art’s power and the power of their own voices. Their performances grappled with both personal pain and social injustice at the same time that they suggested resilience and an unyielding vision that things could – and should – be different. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ words to his son Samori came to mind as I drove home:
I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.
The young poets at the Hyper Bole asked each of us to join them as conscious citizens of this terrible and beautiful world, and it’s a testament to their craft that so many of us found ways out of the comfort and security and complicity of our own dreams.
Here are some photos from the day. You can find more on social media; attendees were encouraged to use the hashtag #hyperbole2016 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Tessa introduces herself to poets from other schools during registration. These young women are from Lake Braddock in Fairfax County. (Registration opened at 11, with some poets arriving before. Most stayed through 8 PM when finals ended).
The preliminary slam competition MC explains the rules to students. Most important, he urges students to remember that this is about sharing your work with others and opening yourself to something beautiful.
After students attended workshops and ate lunch, attendees came together for an open mic.
Tessa was the first performer at the open mic.
I was so proud to watch her.
Co-founder Joseph Green stands with all ten finalists.
Amid cheers, Hyper Bole champion Bobbi Johnson stands to accept well-deserved praise and a $500 scholarship.
Tessa is working hard to start a poetry club at Loudoun School. We hope to show up in full force at next year’s Hyper Bole.