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(Back row, from left) Lauren Amos, Grant Baird, Caleb McGinty, Garrett Ratcliff; (middle row, from left) Noah Melman, Natalie Sameine, Kelli Reichert, Kate Munson, Lila Gutman, Jacob Spangler; (in front): Mr. Vincent Johnson.
Because Briarwood is partnered with The Alley Theatre, Briarwood juniors had a unique opportunity this fall to work with Vincent Johnson, an Alley Theatre teaching artist, and well-known slam poet. Mr. Johnson guided and encouraged us as students with helpful writing and expression tips so that we could expand our skills as slam poets.
The first day, Vincent challenged us to create our own haikus. Another day, we wrote an ode to something we hate. It was no surprise when students wrote about homework and P.E. class. Deeper into the workshop, he asked us to compose a variety of personal poems on subjects or experiences that were important to us. During that process, Mr. Vincent modeled poems he had written that came from his life experiences.
Briarwood students with Mr. Vincent Johnson (pictured, from left): Mary Sarver, Noah Melman, Kelli Reichert, Lauren Amos, Ashleigh Ordeneaux, Garrett Ratcliff, Natalie Sameine, Jack Roche, Vincent Johnson, Grant Baird, Jacob Spangler, Jake Upshaw, Lila Gutman, Donny Ricca, Eli Witt, Kate Munson and Caleb McGinty.
The following days consisted of learning how to turn our written poems into “performance art.” We practiced voice, articulation, and movement warm-ups daily. Often, we found ourselves in the middle of a circle surrounded by our classmates. People within the circle would perform their poems and others would listen. After each poet performed, peers on the outside of the circle would give feedback based on what they heard and saw. Many students loved the chance at the spotlight; there were those few, though, who were not so thrilled. Whatever the exercise, we were always supported by Mr. Johnson’s humor and gentleness.
Thursday, Oct. 26, the last day of the program, when our poems were revised and "ready,” we were ready for our Slam Poetry competition. Students presented their original slam poems in front of faculty members who served as judges and scored performances. At the end of scoring, the winners were invited to participate in the Spring Poetry Slam at The Alley Theatre. It was an experience that the juniors will not forget.