Poetry Cafe provides outlet for rhyming teens
Angst, personal faith, lost love among most popular themes
Through poetry, teens peeled off layers last week at De Soto High School.
Performing verse they wrote themselves or chose from published works, students revealed their thoughts Thursday and Friday during the school's annual Poetry Cafe. Lost love, personal faith, abortion, athletic accomplishment, child abuse and even break dancing graced the stage -- and that was in only one hour.
Working with English teacher Jason Generally, media specialist Jennifer Sosna started the Poetry Cafe three years ago.
Classes take turns visiting the library, where the lights are dimmed and students read poetry they find or write themselves. This year they used leftover prom decorations for a backdrop and cash from the Cat Booster Club for baked snacks.
Sosna said she aimed for an environment that put teens at ease.
"It gives them an outlet to express themselves," Sosna said. "It just allows them to express their feelings in an environment where they feel comfortable."
Interpreting poetry the way he likes best, junior Josh Adkins on Friday played guitar and sang one of his original ballads, "Stay Out of My Dreams."
Adkins said he was more comfortable writing and performing music than anything else. If you're expressing personal thoughts, he said, the guitar steals a little of the spotlight from what you're saying.
"It's a way to express my feelings, I guess, without feeling really dumb," Adkins said. "It's a way to get all the anger off my chest."
Adkins said "Stay Out of My Dreams" was about an ex-girlfriend and how he actually felt alone when he was with her.
The song is based on Adkins' own experience, but he guessed any of his peers could relate, too.
"I think everybody has had a bad relationship," he said.
Sophomore Consuelo Calderon had the same idea when she read "I Miss You," a poem about lost love she found on the Internet.
"It reminded me of my ex-boyfriend," she said. "I think it touched everybody's heart in some way."
Calderon said she liked performing poetry because she wanted people to know how she felt, even though she was more secure expressing that through someone else's writing.
Sharing poetry she wrote herself would be too revealing for all but those who know her best, like family and close friends, she said.
Freshman Gabe Hastings said he was a little nervous about reading his original poem to the group; he penned "Change of Heart" to reflect what it felt like to be bullied.
"I just started writing," Hastings said. "That's kind of what my life was like before. I was always kind of the one that got picked on."
Hastings' eight-stanza poem begins:
For every good kid a bully awaits.
The poem wanders through emotions and thoughts incurred from laughing, pointing, harsh words and worse.
But, when you pushed and you pushed your thoughts got crueler.
As your thoughts changed to words which turned into actions,
you finally pushed too hard and you crossed the line,
But, you sent that "loser" to a hospital bed.
Now, all he can remember was a name and a blow to the head.
English teacher Bryan Brutto said he reminded students that poetry was one of the most personal types of literature because it was flexible and open to interpretation.
Students don't always realize there's more to poetry than classical authors like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, Sosna said.
The librarian said poetry was one of her favorite types of literature and that she enjoyed helping teens appreciate it, too, by introducing types of poetry they could relate to.
Poems by modern writers or fellow teenagers were favorites, she said.
Many types of writing, arguably even Top 40 songs, count as poetry, Brutto said. It doesn't have to be mushy.
"We've had a wide range of topics -- everything from drugs to sex to what they want to be in life," Brutto said.
Sophomore Chayan Perez loves break dancing, so he wrote "My Love for Breaking," a poem about just that:
As my hands and feet hit the ground
I begin to move to the beat of the sounds.
My legs and body went round and round.
My space is bound.
The crowd was loud and I felt great and proud.
My heart is prancing
I love break dancing.
Perez said writing the poem was easy, though he wished he spent more time on it, and performing in the Poetry Cafe wasn't intimidating.
"I know everyone here," he said.