Friday, May 27, 2011

Poetry Cafe / 5th Grade Beatnik Day

Today I took a break from SPD duties to drive up to Davis.  The 5th graders at my nephew's school, North Davis Elementary, were having a "Poetry Cafe" and Beatnik Day and my brother-in-law, knowing I'm a poet, invited me up.

The kids read in groups for the most part, although a couple brave souls went solo.  These were all original poems/compositions/pieces. 

Wade at the Mic

Dog, Chicken & Cat

the young Velvet Underground

Beatnik = Drums

Goin' Solo

Beatnik-teachers on Playground Duty

Wade and Friends

The poet/performers could select one of four different formal structures to make their poems.  According to Wade, my nephew, his group chose a form called a "rubaiyat," which at North Davis seems to mean a rhyme scheme of a-a-a-a.  A lot of the boy groups chose to do rubaiyats, and most of those seemed to be about how great the San Francisco Giants are.  The most popular form (probably because it was the easiest) was based on the One Little Indian nursery rhyme, except instead of Indians the kids used birds, computers, etc.  This got a little tedious, actually, but those moments were punctuated by some extremely creative performances.  My favorite was basically a rap about the American Revolution, with shout outs to 1776 and Paul Revere.  The refrain made the point that liberty is the most important thing, and that to preserve it we should be willing to make our own clothes.

Admittedly, many of the poems were clearly written as acts of drudgery, and many kids were bored with the whole thing, but on the other hand how is that different from poetry in the adult world?  And there were some moments of very impressive performance and even, periodically, the glimmers of some serious facilities with language.  I loved it....

One of the many poetry-positive messages
on the back scrim

Couldn't quite interpret this one

Who knows, maybe they mean it, or at least someday will...

Thanks and praise to Becca Yazdani, Wade's teacher, and all the 5th grade teachers, students, and parents at N. Davis Elementary!

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