All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Youth and Poetry

It's about time I addressed an obvious issue. I have heard on more than one occasion the same question. "It's almost the end of National Poetry Month, so why haven't you done one post on poetry?" Fair question. As many people know (and to the displeasure of others), I do the occasional post on how writing poetry can benefit writers no matter what their usual genre might be. These poetry posts have a cult following (cult = only a few members, though very passionate about the subject), and those few will not be let down. However, I like to think there's something in this post for the non-poets as well. And on that note...

The main reason I held back on a poetry post for National Poetry Month has to do with timing. Last week, I had the honor of being a judge at the regional school district's poetry slam - twenty student in the 15- to 18-year-old range from seven different schools - and I wanted to report on just what came of this wonderful experience. And for those who think that teenagers are not emotionally developed enough to truly do justice to poetry, well, please read on.

First and foremost, a proper poetry slam includes offering the emotion and language of poetry, so intricate and detailed, along with the power of presentation, which can range from sobering to forceful. The secret is to not turn it into monologue - just yelling at a Zoom feed or explaining why life sucks - but to create, through rhythm and verse, something that moves the audience emotionally, spiritually, and perhaps even physically. I was not let down.

I was amazed at how these students of the art were able to really dig deep inside themselves and hit upon some very deep, personal issues - racial division, peer pressure, gender fluidity conflict, self-doubt, personal tragedy, sexual conflict, self image issues, and so many more. Any one of these subjects could emotionally overwhelm the unprepared, but these poets took such volatile emotions and so elegantly turned them into moving works. 

Some might say that teenagers are overflowing with frustration and confusion so how difficult can it be to pour an issue onto the page? Normally, I would respond with a reminder about what it's like to be that age and how confronting such things head-on is a task unto itself. However, these students took on struggles that adults often don't want to face, so I will not compare them with people of "that age." They challenged their fears and presented their emotions in a raw, visceral manner that created a very intimate portrait of who they are. Any good poetry needs to have that quality, and some of these students created such works before even getting a driver's license.

After some very difficult judging, we managed to find one winner among many. I will not use that old line that everyone is a winner - they all know they did something amazing - but rather, I will offer this much. I left with a new respect for the art. I proceeded to check out the highlights from the most recent Louder Than A Bomb finals (an annual teen poetry slam in Chicago) and earned a deep respect from what these poets create.

And, like any adventurous writer, I might just have to give this a try...        

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