An Open Mic-Like Night

Two Sunday nights ago, we were invited to a poetry reading. Not at a quaint independent book store or some cool café, rather at the home of a British woman who teaches English classes to elementary and middle school children.

When the eight-week session began last September, Simone went hesitantly. Louise had asked the 8th and 9th graders ahead of time to bring in their favorite song lyrics, which they then studied, breaking down lines and examining words, rhythm and meaning. Throughout the fall, they explored personification, metaphor, onomatopoeia, alliteration and imagery. Every Wednesday night, they wrote haikus, tankas and finally, slam poems. 

At the end of the term, the teacher decided to have the kids showcase their work at a reading. Her living room filled up with mothers and fathers and younger siblings, all bundled in coats and boots. Even though Israel’s winter is mild, the tile floors and stone walls mean inside is often colder than out. We took our seats and waited.

Louise introduced her students, about 12 in all, divided into two classes. One at a time, they stood and read. Simone was second, reading a poem she wrote using personification. My daughter took her spot, looked down at her paper and up at the audience.

Snow day

Whiteness covers the indecent branches

The scent of pines hangs in the air reminding everyone Santa is about to visit

Blinding light every time the curtains are opened

Snow sparkles everywhere like a disco party

Endless white envelops everything in its path like a hurricane

Relief that school would be canceled

Layered mittens hats scarves and coats

Touch snow with your bare flesh

Feel the sting of coldness

Runny noses and blushed cheeks

Icicles dare to be licked

Hear the crunch of fresh snow under your boot

Snow angels dance in the sun

Snowmen smile at pedestrians

Rich creamy dark chocolate with marshmallows floating like logs in an ocean

Take the wet garments off like peeling a carrot

Get cozy on the couch

Eavesdrop on the purr of the radiator

 

As soon as she finished, the woman sitting next to me said, “Where did she grow up?” When I told her New York, she laughed. 

One boy recited a slam poem about fame and pop culture, while another read about footballers’ (soccer players) pay and egos. A girl wrote about friendships.

After everyone had performed, Louise spoke. “Some of the assignments were so challenging and the kids did amazing. I realized that if they could do my assignments then I should be able to, too.” She addressed her students. “You didn’t know that I wrote this, my attempt at a slam poem, but I did and it’s for you.”

KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge is the power to help you flower into the great mind you will lean on in the future.

But it is up to you how to travel this journey without a written guide book.

Your life will not be given a five start review, it’s up to you.

Knowledge is a present if only you have the presence of mind not to decline but to

ACCEPT

Don’t reject this gift of words.

Your parents or teachers or elders feed to you like a complex set of medication.

The “I told you so’s the “You brought that upon youself’s”, the “think about what you just did’s”

DON’T roll your eyes.

You too will take great pleasure from these phrases after knowledge has built you like a bridge.

When you stare at your I pad screen, your computer screen, your phone screen

STOP press escape,

And think

Am I using these screens to absorb the correct things? What will I gain from this burn to my retina?

Remember what you learn will churn you into a unique piece of art that some will criticise and others will love.

When I ask you as “teacher” to give your ideas, don’t look at your peers for the answer,

Rather go through the extensive corridors in your mind which are as complex as the London underground station.

Find your route and stick to it.

OR

Change stations and move to the next track.

As long as you get to where you want to be, you will have the ticket of knowledge

And a suitcase of potential in your hand.

We applauded Louise as well as our kids, for their willingness to take an extracurricular activity that involves homework and effort to keep their native tongue at a level above what they might get in school here.

I don’t know a lot about poetry but do know that what I listened to on that winter’s night was creative, bold, intimate, daring. Some of these kids’ innermost thoughts moved me and served as another reminder of how powerful words can be.

Leave a Comment

18 Responses to “An Open Mic-Like Night”

  1. Ellen February 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Awesome!
    I enjoyed that very much.
    Thank you for sharing your experience
    xo

  2. zelda harris February 19, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Very inspiring. Whatever we can give to youngsters to encourage their creativity is a blessing
    Zelda

  3. Mary Thomas February 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    Writing skills run in the family. Very nicely done, both of you.

  4. Werner Hengst February 20, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    As the saying goes: The apple falls not far from the tree.

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      That remains to be seen. Are you writing?

      • Werner Hengst March 2, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

        Yes, I’m writing, but I’ve made a little pause since I submitted my 56-chapter manuscript to Little, Brown Co.. They have acknowledged receipt and are reading it, but I have not yet received any comments whether yeah or nay. I’ve read somewhere that the longer they hold onto it without saying no, the more hope there is. Wish me well.

        Werner

  5. Marianne/Mom/Grandma February 20, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    What an amazing extra curricular activity! Simone’s poem is so descriptive and lovely and definitely East Coast sounding! And the teacher’s beautifully expressed. How lucky these kids are to have devoted teachers like Louise available to them.

    love, Marianne/Mom/Grandma

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

      It’s pretty great. This session is Macbeth.

  6. Amy February 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    I always enjoy your shared experiences. You make them so real, I feel like I’m there. Mazal to Danielle — writing poetry is not for the faint of heart and she rose to the occasion admirably.

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

      Agreed about writing poetry. Not sure I’d know where to start but sometimes I feel it calling….hmmm.

  7. Lisa February 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    She is her mamma’s daughter and Louise’s poem was one that everyone should read. Miss you my friend!

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      I wish I knew how to write poetry. It’s clever, concise, enchanting…

  8. Sharon February 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Wow. I LOVE Simone’s poem. That phrase “indecent branches” is fabulous-clever and so visual. Thank you, as always, for sharing these snapshots of your life.

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Can I get a snapshot of yours?

  9. MOna February 20, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Yasher Koacha, Simone!!! And the whole of it, this teacher, the experience, her poem too, wonderful!!!
    xo
    auntie em

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Agreed. xo

  10. ruth feiglin February 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    You must be so proud of her. I loved the Icicles that dared to be licked and the eavesdropping on the purr of the radiator. She’s great.

    • Jennifer Lang March 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      I loved the same parts. Thanks for reading.

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