Sunday, August 12, 2007

Slam Poetry

Slam Poetry: How it looks, sounds, tastes, feels and fits into our classroom.

Essential Question #1
How can we as teachers avoid the academic frustrations commonly associated with poetry in secondary schools?

Intro into the History of slam
What is it?
Writing prompt#1
Getting kids interested
Writing Prompt #2
479 Slam 2007

“The Spoken Word Revolution” is about Marc Smith and the history of slam poetry. Rumored to have started in Chicago in the mid eighties, slam poetry has evolved and the text and audio cd takes a reader through the intricate process. The text started with the beat poets, then hip hop influence finishing all the way in the youth movement of today. The book is narrated by Marc Smith, the originator of the Chicago scene and he gives his take on the movement.

Poetry slams offer an alternative to the written word. Often rhythmic and political, the genre uses narrative, movement and sometimes beat boxing to convey a message. Slam poetry is gaining popularity in youth cultures across the country. Youth Speaks and Speak out poetry collective are just a couple national movements promoting performance and incorporating it into the schools.
This style of writing and motion shows us how well the written word lends itself to performance and our schools.

Lets see it in Action: Kiskade

Poetry Writing Prompt #1 (15 minutes)
We have a busy day ahead of us and we need to cover, discuss and create some slam worthy writing before 2:30. Lets start out with an exercise by Regie Gibson

Since slam poetry often centers around protest and social justice lets take a few minutes to think about things that bug, bother, irritate or fester deep within our skulls trying to bore their way out onto paper. Ideas you could use include tuition costs, rules, speeding tickets, women’s rights, politics etc.

Here is Regie Gibson’s “Alchemy”

This eroticism of language
This copulation of words
This slow burning fuck of syllables
Poetry is more than the sum
Of its parts

This is how it was set up:


Pronoun: Substitute for a noun
(example: He, she, it, the, this who)

Noun: Person, Place or thing (example: President, California, Dog)
Preposition: A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence
(example: on, beneath, against)

Adjective: An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words
(example: irritating, yellow, battered)

Verb: Action
(example: Running, swimming, singing)

Conjunction: You can use a conjunction to link words, phrases, and clauses
(example: but, and, nor)

Article: An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun.
(example: A, the, an)

Need some ideas? Think about rhythm, hip hop, religion and politics. Slam poetry often incorporates these things in support or protest of movements. Catholicism, Iraq, Song Lyrics and the cost of parking passes could be used.

Here is my sample:

The stress of procrastinating
This project of importance
The irritating festering death of fun
Homework is more than the plan
Of my weekend

Lets listen to Billy Collin’s (Poetry 180) take on teaching poetry and Kevin Derrig on being a teenager.
While listening think about potential causes of academic frustration and ways for teachers to avoid them. Relate this discussion directly to poetry even though ideas would have practical applications in other subject areas.
(10 minutes)

Introduction To Poetry

I ask them to take a poemand hold it up to the light
like a color slideor press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poemand
watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's roomand
feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterskiacross
the surface of a poemwaving
at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to dois tie the poem to a chair
with ropeand torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

25 minutes to show time, lets get some more ideas on paper:

Writing prompt #2 (15 mintues)
I realize we will not have enough time to finish but try to get as many quality lines as possible. If that means three well written lines, so be it.

Twenty little poetry projects, created by the late Jim Simmerman

Begin the poem with a metaphor or simile.
Morning comes on like a wink in the dark

2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
It’s me it’s winking at

3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered
randomly throughout the poem.
Mock light lolls in the boughs of the pines. Dead air numbs my hands. A bluejay jabbers like nobody’s business. Woodsmoke comes spelunking my nostrils

4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
Morning tastes the way rock felt kissing me on the eye.

5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
A kiss thrown by Randy Shellhourse on the Jacksonville, Arkansas, Little league field because we were that bored in 1965/

6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
We weren’t that bored in 1965

7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
Dogs ran amuck in the yards of the poor, and music spilled out of every window though none of us could dance.

8. Use a word (slang?) you've never used in a poem.
None of us could do the frug, the dirty dog

9. Use an example of false cause - effect logic.
Because we were small and wore small hats

10. Use a piece of "talk" you've actually heard (preferably in a dialect and/or which you don't understand).
Moon go away, I don’t love you no more was the only song I knew by heart

11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: "The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun)..."
The dull crayons of sex and meanness scribbled all over our thoughts

12. Use an image in such a way as to reserve its usual assosiative qualities.
We were about as happy as headstones

13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he could no do in "real life."
We fell through the sidewalk and changed color at night

14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
Little darry was there to scuff through it all,

15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be prediction.
So that today, tomorrow, the day after that he will walk backward among the orphaned trees

16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
And toy rocks that lead him nowhere I could ever track, tell he is so far away, so lost

17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
I’ll have to forget him to know where he is gone

18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
La grave poullet du soir est toujours avec moi

19. Make a nonhuman object say or do something human (personification).
Even as the sky opens for business, even as shadows kick off their shoes

20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that "echoes" an image from earlier in the poem.
Even as the torrent of clean morning light comes flooding down and over it all

Listen carefully to my reading of Simmerman’s “Moon Go Away, I don’t love you no more”

10 minutes to show time

Lets partner up and do some peer editing. In your positive encouragement of each others work look for areas of rich detail that stand out, showing versus telling and what lends itself to potential performance. Use work from both prompts. Consider reversing line order, incorporating them together or dissect parts and pieces and make a freakish collage of rhyme, hip hop and motion.

Example editing Dialogue:
“This image of melting caramel corn in the Christmas tin rocked my world because……………….”
“And you say here in this line you were lonely, how lonely?”
“Did you smell the pillow as a reminder, hear your song on a scratchy vinyl record through old musty speakers, did you collect his hair in a zip lock bag and make a doll out of it?”

How a poetry slam works:
I will be taking volunteers to read, recite, and perform their work or work of their fellow classmates. Due to time constraints we will do one round and each poet will be subjectively scored on a scale of 1 to 10. Scoring is based on my personal preference and emotion evoked by your images, rhymes and style!

Lets wrap this thing up in mildew covered Sunday paper comic strips and tie some string around it with Brenda Moosy and “What I said to the Man Installing the Hot Tub”

While listening think of ways to incorporate performance poetry into the classroom. Consider the specifics covered in this class. Digital story telling, creating community, multi genre papers and diversity in the classroom are potential stepping stones of conversation.


Harris said...

good slam poetry is beyond sublime. Saw a good show at Wellspring a couple of months ago 2 poets/multimedia event. Should've called you.
"blowing tunes thru lunar wombs, impregnating stars giving birth to suns that darken the skins that skin our drums, and we be beating infinity over sacred hums"
love that guy. that billy collins poem was a hoot too.

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