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Renowned slam poet Vincent Johnson (center) worked with Briarwood juniors, guiding them to compose and perform original slam poems through a partnership with Alley Theatre and The Briarwood School.
Because Briarwood has a partnership with Alley Theatre, The Briarwood School had an unique opportunity this fall to work with Vincent Johnson, a renowned slam poet. Vincent worked with the 11th graders, guiding them to compose and perform original slam poems. He focused on conveying strong ideas and emotion through vivid images and rhythm. Johnson’s guidance was essential as each student composed, revised and honed their poetry skills.
The first day, Vincent challenged the students to create their own haikus. His involvement and encouragement helped the students become confident not only as writers, but also as performers. He urged students to express themselves. The following days consisted of writing personal poems that later would be presented to a larger audience of teachers and students. Most students jumped at the chance at having the spotlight; others were not thrilled with the idea. However, all students were inspired to take risks as Vincent, their teaching artist, modeled the process for them. He performed his own award-winning slam poems on subjects such as "Jasper" incident and humorous "girl who would not stop talking." Taking his lead, the Briarwood juniors each wrote three poems focusing on themselves, on something that had changed their lives.
Performance was a vital aspect of the program. Each day's practice began with the class in a circle surrounding the reader who recited his or her original poem. On the last day of the program, the students presented their slam poems. A group of teachers served as judges and scored each performance. The competition was fierce because almost every student wanted the chance to perform his or her poem at the Slam Poetry Festival at Alley Theater. In the end, four lucky poets were selected and Grant Baird, Kate Munson, Natalie Semine and Jacob Spangler made their Slam Poetry debut at Alley Theatre.
"It was fun and interesting hearing my friends perform their poems and seeing everyone's reactions to my own poem,” said Jacob Spangler, summing up a new and exciting experience.