When Tiffany Parker started the Poetry Club at Charles Warren Fairbanks School 105, she was skeptical about the response she would receive.
So, she embellished the truth just a little.
“I tricked them,” said Parker, the school’s parent involvement educator (PIE). “I told the boys that it was about rap. I also told them that girls would be in the club.”
More than 40 students showed up for the first meeting, and they’re still attending.
Each week, girls and boys in Grades 1-6 meet every Wednesday after school to mingle with local poets who teach them different styles of the art form and then write poems based on assigned topics. The meeting always caps off with students reading their works.
On Wednesday, April 24, the public will get a chance to hear what club members have been working on during their first-ever Poetry Slam from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the school.
The students are both nervous and excited — nervous to recite their poems in front of family and complete strangers, and excited because they’re proud of what they have created.
Parker said the Poetry Slam will be authentic, with a poetry battle, prizes, a live disc jockey (DJ), judges, and a writing competition. Students will also don T-shirts and berets. Admission to the slam is $1 and will be held in the school cafeteria.
During a recent Poetry Club meeting, where students were writing and collaborating with other students, local poet Jennifer Fentress was keeping order, and offering advice and encouragement. She’s been to most of the club meetings and says it’s an honor to participate.
“I started doing poetry to release pinned up anger. It gives me a voice and a creative outlet to express myself — whether I keep it to myself or share it,” said Fentress. “Seeing the excitement in the kids … we come out here each week because it’s satisfying.”
The club and the work students get to do with the local poets has also helped in their growth. At the end of the year, all of their poems will be turned into individual books.
Mahogany F., 12, said before joining the club she had a fear of speaking in public. But that’s gone.
“I was nervous the first time I read my poem because there were a lot of people looking at me,” said Mahogany. “I was afraid to speak in public at first. But every week we have to go in front of people and speak, so I’ve gotten used to it. Now it’s normal to me.”
She aspires to be a public speaker, lawyer and a rapper.
Parker said in addition to learning poetry, students also work on reading comprehension, fluency, public speaking, vocabulary and being respectful. So, it’s a win for everyone involved.
What students are saying about the Poetry Club
Dorian W., 7, First Grade
“I joined the club because I wanted to start writing better, and I thought the Poetry Club would help me be a better writer and I would get inspired.”
Dorian didn’t know much about poetry beforehand, “but I like it because I like to write.” She’s written more than 30 poems.
Mahogany F., 12, Sixth Grade
“I knew a little bit about poetry before the club started. I joined because I like rapping and rapping is like poetry, so I wanted to learn how to start rapping better and learn more about the history,” said Mahogany.
“I wanted to see if poetry would help me, and it did.”
Chyron G., 11, Sixth Grade
“I like poetry because you can just embrace yourself and put all of your words on a piece of paper and make something out of it,” said Chyron, who has been writing raps while in the club.
He said the visiting poets were great because they helped club members learn more about poetry. “They’ve taught us a lot of things. I didn’t like to write before I joined the club, but I like it now.”
Sadayveon E., 12, Sixth Grade
“I joined the club because I thought it was going to be fun,” said Sadayveon. “When I come to Poetry Club I write raps, but I also write a lot of poems.”
He said one of the benefits of being in the Poetry Club is that his confidence in public speaking has improved.