Two weeks ago I decided to teach slam poetry in my classroom. The results were phenomenal. My kids came up with brilliant, insightful, and wonderful poems. A lot of them were about the city of Baltimore and the way they described their homes with such detail made me weepy. I posted one that made me laugh and one that made me cry in the space above this paragraph.
I joined in the writing fun of course. The first poem below is my example that I read aloud for them. My students thought it was great!! The second one is something I had began writing a few years back called "What Love Isn't." I put a little slam twist on it and they both are meant to be read aloud, which is why grammatically they aren't the easiest to read on paper. Due to content I obviously did not read the second one to my students. I hope you have fun reading them, because I had fun writing them.
The Classroom Slam Poetry
When I walked into the classroom, I had know idea what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to help. Help kids to see that they are more. More than the drugs and the drama and the damning statistics. The statistics that say 36.5 percent of children in Baltimore live below the poverty line. The line is invisible, but yet it is like concrete on the city kids skin. Skin that doesn’t matter, but matters because people are people and ignorance still exits. Fight. I just want them to fight for your rights and know them and speak them. YOU ARE NOT A NUMBER. Stand up against what others think, because they don’t matter. What matters are dreams. Yes, passion. Yes, thinking about life without knives. Without violence. Without fear.
Are you laughing? Does that seem unattainable? Because, it’s not. For those who sit in silence and rot, you are wasting away. Wasting the life that you’ve been given. As a teacher the words that I hate are I CAN’T. I CAN’T. I CAN’T.
Those are just lies that you wrap yourself in, so that you can get by on easy. E – Enraged by the fact that we post to instagram and sell grams, but when it comes to grammar we put E after I and never even remember rules like except after C. A- It’s appalling that we would rather use our fists instead of words and throw desks. It’s absurd because the truth is, while we’re keeping it 100, it’s hard to use your vocabulary when you read at a 6th grade level. Level Up. Raise your game. Next time you want to fight, say “My blood is too precious for the ground, so while you throw down, I’ll be up here, bettering myself, proving I’m more than a number, more than a statistic, which leads me to S- shocking, the fact that there are kids dying and their souls are like soup on the street, they were sucked in and spit out, and instead of saying what they wanted, they let the misery of others kill them and dead is dead. You aren’t coming back from a whole in your chest. Y. Not the letter y. BUT WHY ARE YOU LETTING SOCIETY DICTATE YOUR BEHAVIOR? WHY ARE YOU NOT FIGHTING FOR WHAT’S BETTER? E _ A_S_Y!! SO, yes It would be easy to be just like everybody else, but who wants to be average. Average is fine. Who wants to be fine? WITHIN YOU IS A HERO FIGHTING TO GET OUT. If you choose prison, you can fight to get out. Out of the cell or be the man on the outside, screaming THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS GAME THAT WE PLAY.
SO reach down to your core. Listen to that beat. This. Pump. Is. Pump. Who. Pump. I. Pump. Am. It doesn’t matter how they see me, because I SEE ME.
I thought I could, so I did.
I think you can so you should. PROVE THEM WRONG.
Are you just a number? A face on the news? What if instead of a Michael Brown, you became Michael Jordan? Police brutality is unfair, but even more is the wasted talent that sits six feet under, with maggots at their feet, when the only thing at your toes, should be open doors. What if you found a cure to the violence? TO the bones in the ground and you stood on the top and you yelled I AM MORE. Instead of fighting against your teachers, treating them like the enemy, you took the squandered letters and laid down your words on paper, pasted your thoughts so others could see YOUR NAME.
When I walked in the classroom I had know idea what I was doing. But, I listened to the chorus of hearts around the room and I saw their faces. I know each and every single one of them have the ability to go places. SO write a number in the air. Whether it’s 36.5, the child poverty rate. Or 25.2, the percent of people living below the poverty LINE. Or 9.7 the unemployment rate. They are more than a number, a statistic, and a bullet. A bullet proof vest is as simple as college. THEN TAKE YOUR FINGERS AND SLASH THE NUMBERS OUT> AND TAKE YOUR VOICE AND SEND IT UP> I AM MS. HANSEN> A TEACHER IN BALTIMORE CITY> I KNOW MY KIDS> AND I KNOW THEIR FATE> I know that until their final breaths it is never. Ever. TOO late.
I am unsure of what love is, but I can tell you all that it is not. I can show
You my past and the things that were said. I can brush the shitty moments
On a canvas, splattered with red.
I can paint the dust that settled on my skin – long legs -- like rusty
I read more than I had ever read before, turning the pages, morphing into the
words, wishing I could melt within them.
“We shouldn’t have…if you had…Don’t you ever think about me?”
Imperfections become a game, and that’s the only one he ever wants to play.
No longer is the curve of your hips a positive -- they are now just too wide.
You laugh too loud, talk too much and all you can think is “Shut the fuck UP.”
He’s lost, but you’re found.
Splinters on lips -- Stay quiet, coast.
Love is not skipping the moments that mean the most.
Put on mascara, that fancy little dress, with the gold earrings he said he liked
When he thought he had to try.
The camera never snapped, just the strings in your chest.
My daddy showed me how love could be cold, with the cards in the sky,
He flipped the stars, and proved me right.
About the blog:
Emily Ann Hansen
I'm a writer and teacher living in Baltimore City. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. Instead of babbling, I will list a few of the things in life that make me happy: