Poetry slam at Bay Middle School sparks love of poetry
Bay High junior Elizabeth Holup recalls how, as a shy fifth-grader, she found a door to self-expression through poetry. She recently shared that passion with Bay Middle School students through an opportunity to study and perform poetry called a poetry slam.
“You’re invited to ‘snap’ for applause if you’d like,” she told the audience in the school library on April 11. “That’s a tradition at poetry slams.”
Next came a lineup of students reading both original and favorite poems. Fifth-graders Lauren Barrett, Alice Jones and Emma Majure, and seventh-graders Chloe Hoban, Matthew Price and John Weber, took to the microphone with poems varying from winsome to frightening. Their voices, and sometimes their dress, reflected the mood of the reader’s chosen verse. Chloe Hoban, for example, dressed in floor-length black and spoke in a commanding voice. She performed two Edgar Allen Poe masterpieces, “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” Others performed their original poems or read their childhood favorites.
Elizabeth organized the poetry slam as a project toward her goal of earning a Girl Scout Gold Award.
“The Gold Award requires a project that leaves a lasting, positive effect on your community,” she said. “When I was in elementary school in New York, the librarians put on a massive poetry slam with hundreds of kids. By some miracle, I signed up to read a few Shel Silverstein poems and participate. It was such a wonderful, welcoming experience for me.” She said she returned to that idea of sharing poetry in a fun, casual environment when planning her Gold Award project.
Elizabeth also introduced a surprise guest at the poetry slam. Ohio’s Poet Laureate, Dr. David Lucas, remarked that working with the middle school age group is uniquely wonderful because no one has told them what poetry is yet – what components it has to include, how it has to be structured, or what emotions it has to express. Dr. Lucas attended in response to an email invitation from Elizabeth.
After a brief pause for refreshments and perusal of poetry books, audience members were invited to and came to the podium to read poetry themselves.
Elizabeth plans to return to Bay Middle School next year to work with students, not only in reading and performing poetry, but in organizing future poetry slams after she herself graduates from Bay High.
“The kids I worked with had such genuine passion for the poems they wrote,” she said. She hopes to capture that enthusiasm so that the middle school poetry slams are a school tradition for years to come.
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District