Literary musings, and news you can use, with Amye Archer
Broken Ground: Teen Poets Slam the Vintage Theater
There are times in my writing life when the well is dry, the sun doesn’t shine for weeks, and the skies hang over me like a bubble, pregnant with something that I cannot yet reach. It is during those times that I forget about the power of the written word. I forget about the times it has saved me, pulling me back from the rim of some invisible drop. I forget about the power writing yields, how it has changed my life, how the very act of writing your story can transform you, color your world and blow life back into your lungs. But if I ever needed to be reminded of what writing and poetry can do for someone, I got that reminder loud and clear last Saturday night.
Several weeks ago I was asked by Katie Wisnosky, a Tunkhannock Area High School teacher, to judge a teen poetry slam. Mrs. Wisnosky worked with several teen writers in her school to form the Breaking Ground Poets, a group that she hopes will perform in slams all across the country someday.
And from what I saw that night, she might be right. One by one the teens took the stage at the newly-renovated Vintage Theater, and with each new poet, the bar was raised. The teens talked about fitting in, busting out, growing up, growing tough, losing love, learning life and everything in between.
Sometimes they spat, sometimes they sang, and sometimes their voices welled with such emotion I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face as I listened.
When we reached the final round, and only a few of them remained, the competition was close.
As the finalists read their powerful pieces, their classmates and friends stood on the side of the stage and rooted, whole-heartedly, for those who only moments earlier, were their competitors. And when one young poet broke down into tears after reading a piece so raw it must have burned her throat on its way out, her friends closed around her like a clam shell and absorbed the shock of her sobs. It was a night of unity, of spoken words and of strength.
After the event it was all I could do not to hug each one of them. I told them they were wonderful, told their parents that they should be proud, but what I wanted to say, what sat on the back of my tongue waiting to be heard, was this: as a teenager, poetry saved me and I’m so glad to see it saving you.
The Breaking Ground Poets will not be forgotten anytime soon by this writer. I came home from the event and spit out three new poems, all based on this experience. Because of that night, the skies in my world were blue and pulsing again, birthing the words I needed to articulate what I had experienced. It is important that we realize these events are happening right here in northeastern Pennsylvania. It is important that we nurture the groups and the venues, like The Vintage Theater, that allow this magic to happen.
The Breaking Ground Poets will host a teens vs. adults slam, in which I will be a proud participant, on January 12 at The Vintage Theater.
Amye Barrese Archer is a writer and teacher in Scranton. You can read more about her at www.amyearcher.com.