If there’s anybody here who doesn’t believe young people have something valid to say about serious issues confronting our world, you gon’ learn today! – Joseph Green, poet, educator, and co-organizer of the Hyperbole
Five students and I spent nine and a half hours experiencing, writing, performing, and discussing poetry last Saturday at the Hyperbole (cleverly pronounced Hyper Bowl – as in “Super Bowl”).
My students could have done anything with their Saturday, but they chose to use poetry to connect with young people from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia whom they likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.
They mingled during ice breakers, supported each other in the preliminary slam round, participated in two hours of workshops, celebrated music and poetry at an open mic, and watched the ten finalists (plus performers from Ushindi) on the big stage.
The bravery and brilliance of my two students who decided to compete are simply legendary; they each had lines that knocked the breath out of my chest (and I saw the audience respond the same way).
Tessa and I attended last year’s Hyperbole alone, and she vowed she would build up our poetry club and bring more students this year. The fact that five kids from different grades, genders, and backgrounds came with us to Hyperbole 2017 is a testament to Tessa’s inclusive, compelling leadership. Each week, she chooses prompts, leads exercises, and moderates workshops to help her peers craft their poetic voices. She’s willing to put herself out there first, and to make mistakes in public, to give the rest of us the courage to follow suit. And at Hyperbole, she gets to meet likeminded risk-takers from across the DC, Maryland and Virginia area.
My experience at the Hyperbole drove home Joseph Green’s point about the urgency of listening generously to the voices of our young people. I re-learned what I knew as a kid: teens are paying attention to the words and deeds of their elders; they care about justice and beauty and human dignity. They are willing to envision a better world — and able to articulate those visions powerfully through language and performance.
I am so proud of the kindness, openness, brilliance, boldness, and beauty these students shared with the world and one another.