When I was a tiny little frosh in high school, attempting to be gothic and failing epically, my English teacher decided to introduce our brains to slam poetry.
She did this by bringing in Zork.
Zork, a giant ginger of a man, came into our very homogeneous, very snide den of vipers known as ninth-graders, and performed this. As you can imagine, we had no idea of what to make of him.
Ever since Zork came in and gave us a very… peculiar English class, I’ve been curious about spoken word poetry, and its New York mecca, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. For too long, I’ve felt like a failing of a literary New Yorker because I had never been there. Until last week. I finally made it over there with Writopia Lab’s Teen Poetry Night.
The teen writers had waaaaay more moxie than me, as they stood up in front of everyone and bared their souls through their poetry. It’s one thing to blather on when I’m teaching or leading a group.
But poetry. That’s like opening your veins, and saying, listen, this is the sound of my blood, singing the words of my heart. This is all the pain, the power, the story of my world, my lifetime on this planet.
It’s… intense. To stare at a crowd of strangers and let them hear that.
But we had an amazing motley of poets. There were four boys from Brooklyn, who did a great rap. A teen boy who lamented his lack of ‘big balls’. And of course, my fellow Westchester writers were phenomenal. The issues they tackled, ranged from silly and tongue-in-cheek, to really tough ones. Suicide. Prejudice. Heartbreak.
They really showed that age is no barrier to how profoundly and deeply our experiences affect us. And how universal those experiences can be, at least the feelings that go along with them. I applaud each of them for sharing.
Maybe one day I’ll be as brave as they are.
I had never been to the East Village before, either. (Terrible New Yorker, yes, I’m aware). And it’s so crazy artsy. Neon mohawks, piercings, and tattoos adorn the body of almost everyone. I resisted gaping, but I wondered what sort of jobs they must have, to be able to express themselves so openly, and afford Manhattan’s insane rent.
We wandered over to this famous ice cream place, Big Gay Ice Cream, before we headed back to Grand Central. I had read about it before – it features flavors such as the Bea Arthur and the Salty Pimp. They even have gluten-free cones. Got to love it.
Ah! Already I want to go back and explore the area more. I love cities. I love how there are a million different worlds, all contained on this one island, and it’s outer boroughs. I guess most major cities must be like that. Still, it only fuels my hunger for experiencing as much as I can with the time I have.
Other countries are out there too – but there’s so much to see right in my own backyard.