“Poetry is the light brought on by knowing your gift and sharing it with people to touch them,” says Daquan Horton, an 8th grader at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast Washington, D.C.
Poetry is a powerful tool for self-expression. Horton’s classmate Curtis Johnson, also in the 8th grade, would agree. “Poetry means expressing everything in your heart and soul,” says Johnson.
Horton and Johnson participate in the afterschool Kelly Miller Poetry Club, organized by Do the Write Thing. In addition to practicing reading, analyzing and writing poetry, students also hone their performance skills.
Watch Daquan Horton, 8th grade, electrify the audience with his poem.
Each week, students work with local poets, who serve as consultants to the program, to create new poems and practice performing them for their peers.
Schaniya Stallings, 8th grade
“Poetry to me is a way to get peace and love for the world to heal.”
Rhonda Marshall, 7th grade
“Poetry is finding a way to get things off your heart that bother you.”
Simeon Coker, 8th grade
“Poetry is a way to heal yourself from pain that people make in the world.”
Cortez Smith, 8th grade
Learning to give and accept peer critique is essential to a young poet’s development. “Critiquing gives students a chance to teach each other,” says Marion Ingram, Executive Director of Do the Write Thing. Students use a code of ethics to create a safe space inside the workshop and have productive discussions, explains Ingram.
Once a month the poets hit the stage at area open mics and poetry festivals. The students recently performed at Busboys and Poets in the District, where they shared their work with family, friends and the community. This spring students will submit their poems for a compilation to be published by Do the Write Thing.
United Way NCA sponsors a City Year corps at Kelly Miller Middle School, and Do the Write Thing, which received a mini-grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and was honored by Mayor Gray’s office, is another example of a local nonprofit partner collaboratively working with Kelly Miller students to help them achieve success inside and outside of school walls.
Ingram credits United Way with providing a source of support for its varied programming endeavors, of which he feels the performance aspect is the most important. “Performing gives young people the opportunity to overcome their fears, build confidence, develop their stage presence and be more vocal about things in their community,” says Ingram.
Izayah Williams, a 7th grade poet, has found his voice. “Poetry is creating a melody of your thoughts and dreams and hopes,” he says. That is the power of poetry.