Spoken Word: Desire for Truth

Dispelling Fear

I’m sitting and basking in the moment as Jenny, a seventeen year old student, performs her final “goodbye” poem for her weekly “spoken word” assignment in my English class:

“Spoken Word has been the greatest present I’ve been given,
Giving into fears I thought misgiving.
You always say to “go there” and I
Never knew where “there” was, just a
Place with apparitions and monsters
In the back of my mind,
Easier to hide,
Than find, and euthanize…”

I’m truly humbled, because of all the topics in the world for her to write about, she’s chosen to express her own growth, and gained wisdom, and gratitude for my guidance as both teacher and mentor.

Although I always relish a student’s appreciation for the work we accomplished together during the semester, this moment is different. For being a part of Jenny’s journey has proven to be an enriching experience filled with many life lessons worthy of retelling.

Six months ago, Jenny’s fears of being vulnerable and of exposing her true self almost forced her to take a much different path. I believed and expressed to her that her written words were some of the most real and poetic I had ever read from a student her age, but she simply refused to actually perform her pieces out loud.  Read the rest of this entry »

Spoken Word: Nowhere to Hide


I can’t believe what I just saw, heard, and experienced. Standing in front of me is a seventeen-year-old young man who, for the longest time, considered himself worthless, dreamless, lifeless. From my seat in the back of the class, I sit for a moment in awe. Having to give this student a critique on his first “spoken word” performance, a weekly assignment for my English class where students perform their own poetically creative pieces, I am briefly at a loss for words, for there is none that could do justice to what I am feeling. None, but one…Inspiration.

“You are a Poet, in the truest sense of the word,” I hear myself say. Now finished with his recitation, he stands in front of the class, awkward and trembling. As I look down at my hands, I find that I am trembling too, but for different reasons. I close my eyes and realize that I am in the presence of true greatness, of a prodigy. And I am trembling.

“Where did that come from?” another student asks. For, up until he opened his mouth and allowed this volcano of truth to erupt from his soul, he had always presented himself as nervous, insecure and inferior, albeit intelligent, with an inability to even make eye contact, let alone sustain it.

“I don’t know,” he answers, “I guess that’s what I’ve always wanted to say.”

I relish in this moment, as I believe that this is how it must have felt to first experience the genius of Mozart, DaVinci, Angelou. As if I just struck gold, my first instinct is to selfishly protect the treasures of his words. But the more it sinks in, the more I selflessly want others to experience this teen’s talent as well. My mind is racing with how to make that happen.

School performance? No, for I don’t think the majority in attendance would understand or appreciate his words.

YouTube video? Nah, too many would comment negatively based on their own close-minded attitudes.

And then it hits me…Open Mic Night in Northampton. What better audience to share his space than those who will also be airing themselves out on the stage. What a sense of connection, of community this kid would feel for once in his life. To recognize and accept the fact that he’s an Artist, a Writer, an Individual. No longer confined to playing the role of the Hermit, the Loser, the Nobody. I have big dreams for this kid.

Read the rest of this entry »

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