For a generation raised on the often violent messages conveyed in popular rap lyrics, the poetic value of songs is often overshadowed by a driving rhythm, rapid-fire cadence and the singer’s own style. In Mt. Hope High School’s Music as Literature class, teacher, Kerry Mastriano peels away the flash and fashion allowing students to appreciate the lyrics for what they are – poetry.
“Students tend to allow poetry to intimidate them. They often feel disconnected to it and consider it to be on some kind of unattainable level. Many of them don’t realize that songs are poems. Once they do, they are more willing to embrace poetry altogether,” Ms. Mastriano said.
Using their new found understanding of the poetic art form, eight Mt. Hope High School students took part in the school’s third annual poetry slam last Wednesday evening where they spoke from their hearts on subjects such as lost childhood, the demands of adolescence, living true to oneself, bullying, and simply just to marvel at nature’s beauty in the unseen hours from dusk to dawn.
Since it began three years ago, the poetry slam has grown in its presentation. This year, music and comedy enhanced the two hour event with Justin Furtado improvising tunes on his guitar while emcees, Bruce Marshall and Alberto Botelho kept the crowd entertained between poetry readings with blatantly corny jokes, comedic banter, and what appeared to be two friends just being themselves.
Despite the competitive nature of the poetry slam, each poet who took the stage was supported by those waiting their turn. Starting the evening’s performance was senior Andrea Pereira whose “rap-parody-poem” mixed in a little history lesson with her rhyme.
Zoe Melaven McKenna, a sophomore, mixed metaphors and similes in her poem “Detour,” delivered in a beat poet style leaving its meaning open to interpretation.
For the past three years, the students performed their original poems at the Mt. Hope poetry slam. Each year students take a poem that they’ve written and add in their own style, whether a driving rhythm, rapid-fire cadence or fashion that enhances the message being conveyed.
In “Jello-Knees,” Michaela Pacheco spoke to living your own life among nay-sayers who try to take your dreams away and fear of making mistakes.
“Enjoy your moments while they’re there to stay.
But kiss them good bye with the passing of the day.
Live life without regrets.”
Following the popular theme of adolescent enlightenment, Madeline Lessing’s untitled poem spoke to the influences that shape young lives.
“We cling to who we want to be
Rather than who we are
Social media blurs our sentiments
So high on cheap compliments …
We risk our lives
From people who wouldn’t know our name
If they didn’t follow us or subscribe to us or friends us.”
This year’s winning poet was Cody Thomas who recited “Inspiration,” a poem he co-wrote with classmate Turell Boyd that speaks to the negative effects of bullying. Runner-up was Ricky Souza for his dramatic reading of “Sonnet of the Night” a poem he wrote about the beauty nature provides by moonlight.
While Ms. Mastriano and te panel of judges were impressed by the quality of the students’ works, the most gratifying aspect of the competition is the support each gives to the others.
“If one performer freezes or begins to struggle you can hear a pin drop, and if you look around you can see and feel dozens of other students in the audience holding their breaths, nodding and prompting as if to say ‘you can do it,’” Ms. Mastriano said.
The students were judged on their creativity, language, delivery and poise among the criteria. But the real reward was that the students gained an appreciation for an art form that breaks down cliques and personal differences.
“It’s so important for kids to have an outlet if they’re not into sports,” said poetry slam judge, Jeremy Schmidt.