Library Poetry Slam Workshop a Rousing Success
By Office of Communication
Posted on April 03, 2013, April 03, 2013

There was a time when Christina Harris was what you might call a closeted writer, one of those under-the-table scribes whose work is seen by only one pair of eyes: her own. How that has changed. On Tuesday in the activity room of the Southeast Branch Library, Christina strolled up to a microphone and belted out a her poem about living a life of misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding from students, from teachers, from friends, and how that misunderstanding leads to more, well, misunderstanding. Her poem was emotional and personal and humorous . just the sort of thing instructor Mike Guinn wanted her to learn, even in a workshop that met just once a week over a six-week period. Christina was one of a couple dozen junior high students who participated in the workshop-ending poetry slam, in which they performed original work and were judged on a 1 to 10 scale. To show just how these students progressed over the six weeks, Christina's heartfelt poem wasn't even the winner. That was Julianna Geter, who Guinn called "simply awesome.' "This has been such a powerful experience,' said Arlington Public Library Community Programming Librarian Dawn Reyes, who helped organize the workshop and, based on the response, will do another one in the fall. "We've had teachers come over and say how much it's changed their students.' It helped the shy ones needing a push off the ledge and the outgoing ones needing direction. The free program was available to junior high students (public, private, charter and homeschool students were there) who learned how to perform their writing in front of an audience. Elementary students involved in a separate workshop didn't perform, but they learned the ins and outs of poetry. "The workshop tied into the STAAR test curriculum, where they are dealing with poetry now,' said Amy Stafford, a program specialist for the Studio Youth Technology area. "Teachers loved hearing that.' Guinn, Reyes and Stafford ventured into some AISD schools to promote the sessions by fronting assemblies, where they showed what spoken-word poetry was about and why it would be both fun and beneficial for students. Vinny Sadarangani saw the presentations at Ferguson, but came to Southeast mainly to escape boredom as he awaited his mother to pick him up from school. Soon, at least on Tuesdays, he was telling mom to take her time. "Now I really love poetry and especially performing it,' he said. "I thought everybody would make fun of you, but it's not like that at all.' The objective at this age is to merely plant a seed. "To expose them, basically,' said Guinn, who has performed all over the country. "They were going up there with their hands in their pockets, lots of those I'm-not-comfortable nuances. Each week we chipped away all that by creating this safe place, where they can express themselves and not hold back. And, they didn't.'
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