Categorized | Education

Parker School honors Poetry Slam Contest stand-out

Parker School's Slam Poetry Contest participants (from left) Isabella Robertson, Jourdan Evangelista, Megan Yost, Anastasiya Polishchuk, Nondi Lampkin, and Sean Dunnington. (Photo courtesy of Parker School)


Several Parker School students performed their original poems April 30 at a slam poetry contest at the school.

Junior Megan Yost won the contest with a perfect score for her poem, Surfaces.

Parker English teacher Gillian Culff organized the event. Each year, as part of her sophomore class poetry unit, she teaches the students about slam poetry.

Slam poetry was created in the 1980’s by Mark Smith, who Culff said, “wanted an event where people could not just read their original poems, but perform them, and where the audience would be directly involved, both through active response to the performances and as judges. It took off like gangbusters, and slam’s been a part of our culture ever since.”

Last year, Culff had several students excited by the slam unit and the possibility of performing their own poetry so she created an all-day poetry slam workshop, which was to be a part of the school’s ArtStart 2011. Unfortunately, last year’s ArtStart was canceled due to the tsunami.

ArtStart is a Parker tradition in which the students spend a full day working in various art forms with volunteer visiting artists.

Culff said, “So by this year, I had some disappointed students who were hungry for a slam. I ran the workshop for ArtStart and had a very committed core group who shared their poems at the end of the day in an informal all-school meeting. The kids still wanted to do a real slam though. So we opened it up to the rest of the school.”

A number of students stepped forward to perform their poems at the more formal contest on April 30.

Yost received exuberant applause after her performance. She is new to Parker this year, and in addition to being a poet, also danced in the school’s recent production of Guys and Dolls, and is an accomplished saxophone player and member of the Parker’s rock band class.

Yost said, “The poetry slam was tons of fun, but I was so nervous. I was shaking on stage. Perfoming is amazing, I love it, but when you are sharing something personal that you wrote yourself it is much more intimidating. Especially when it’s a competition. You want the audience to enjoy your poem, and feel how much it means to you. You really put yourself out there. When the judges gave me a perfect score I was completely shocked. It was definitely a confidence booster.”

Culff hopes the slam contest will attract even more participants next year, and plans to extend the opportunity to include middle schoolers as well.

By Megan Yost

You sit and stare at a blank gray wall,
Thinking of everything and nothing
At the same time.
A small thought crosses your mind,
A memory of how bright,
how colorful your walls used to be,
Before you came to this foreign place.
Cheerful yellows, feisty reds, peaceful greens and blues.
You wonder, why must this wall be gray?
It should be painted like the rainbow,
It should reflect all the vibrancy of life.
But the thought goes no further.
You keep sitting and staring at the blank gray wall.
Eventually the day comes when you finally go out and buy brushes, to paint that blank gray wall.
But they never leave the grocery bag, tossed in the corner,
As you return to your place, still staring.
A week or so passes.
You work up the energy to pick a few colors,
And several days after that, you actually buy the paints.
But they join the brushes in the dusty corner,
And you stare at the blank gray wall.

People visit occasionally; they compliment your tidy, clean wall.

You are shocked out of your stupor.
You realize all the people around you believe you love that blank gray wall.
You blink,
for the first time in what seems like months.
You notice how much your shoulders ache from keeping your colors,
your life and energy,
Curled up inside.
You open those buckets of paint and let them spill over that blank gray wall,
giving the dull expanse color.
Now everyone who had passed by you and your blank gray wall before,
Stops and stares,
Shocked, because you have revealed something they never knew existed.
They had you in a box, a blank gray box.
Until you popped open that lid on that bucket of paint,
Until you opened up yourself,
and showed the art of your soul,
The rainbow of your living heart.
For you are that wall.”

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One Response to “Parker School honors Poetry Slam Contest stand-out”

  1. Trinidad A. Williams says:

    How wonderfully beautiful to read the transformation of a “bud” into this blossom of outstanding beauty! Her personal revelation is so eloquent – so lucid to depicting lifes’ changing stages and hence view … bravo Ms. Megan Yost!


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