1 January 2015

The Journey of an Adolescent Poet

I was a twelve-year-old seventh-grade student when I joined my middle school's poetry club in 2011.

It was amazing. It introduced me to new people, new hobbies, and new ways of thinking. It fuelled the interest in writing that I already had, and reinforced it for years to come.

As a little #ThrowbackThursday treat, I'll recount to you my personal experiences with poetry.

History repeats itself.

I first began writing poems at age ten, at the close of my primary school years. At the time, my older sister -- then an eighth-grader at the middle school that I would attend in the near future -- participated in an extracurricular activity called the "Poetry Guerrillas," so named to suggest a reputation of cryptic spontaneity.

While she has always had less of an interest in literature than I do, she nevertheless enjoyed the club. She even met a new friend (who, to this day, remains my sister's and my friend) through the club.

By the time I entered middle school, my sister had entered high school, where there were no poetry-related extracurricular activities. (However, there was a student-organised newspaper, which I joined upon entering high school.)

I became a part of the Poetry Guerrillas in my second year of middle school. It was a brilliant decision: the Poetry Guerrillas is a grand idea for a school club. Here are some things that we, as members, did:

1. We wrote poetry using various techniques (such as free verse, haiku, etc.).

2. We learned how to seek inspiration, even from unlikely sources -- memories, events, tragedies, emotions, and others.

3. We sparked an interest in poetry and writing among students, teachers, and community members.

Every year, April was the best time to be a Poetry Guerrilla. We recognised National Poetry Month (celebrated annually in April in the United States) with dedication and enthusiasm:

4. We organised weekly poetry competitions that encouraged all of the students in our school to analyse poems -- many of them written by Guerrilla members -- and to write their own. (We offered participating students small prizes.)

5. On the final Thursday of every April, we arranged and hosted a "poetry café" at our school. The café, held in the evening, included food (such as coffee, lighter beverages, fruit, cookies, prepackaged snacks, and more) and one or two writing workshops. Student artwork was also featured, and most of the evening was reserved for poetry readings -- members of (as well as the teachers who oversaw) the Poetry Guerrillas performed both original and classic poems, and all attendees of the café were invited to read their favourite poems too. We accepted donations and tips, which went on to fund other school activities.

Being a member of the club was an exciting involvement that earned me new friendships -- friendships that carried over into high school, where we constructed a spin-off of the Poetry Guerrillas. . . .

Onward and upward.

In ninth grade, my friends and I (nearly all of us were former Guerrillas) collectively took a break from the club, although some of them chose to occasionally return to the middle school in order to participate and assist with the Poetry Guerrillas throughout the year.

In autumn of 2014, as tenth-graders, three of my friends volunteered for the responsibility of forming a poetry club at our high school. Many of the former Guerrillas joined (but this high school activity was not called the Poetry Guerrillas -- simply the poetry club). Specifically, this club focuses on the art of writing and performing spoken word poetry, which intrigues us, but we appreciate poems in general.

Currently, we consider ourselves members of the club, despite the fact that it's still undergoing the process of being officially ratified by our school. Some of us hope to take trips to watch poetry slams, or to compete together as a team. I'm eagerly anticipating the development of this club.

For the record, my favourite spoken word poet is Sarah Kay. Watch some of my favourite individual poems below. (Videos courtesy of YouTube.)

"To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter" by Jesse Parent
(via user "Button Poetry" on YouTube)

"If I Should Have a Daughter" by Sarah Kay
(via user "Feras Al-Taher" on YouTube)

Sarah also presented a longer TED Talk (containing this performance) that you can watch here.

"To This Day" by Shane Koyczan
(via user "Shane Koyczan" on YouTube)

You can read more about my experiences with poetry and creative writing in the next post.

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