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May 30, 2014

Detroit teens produce video about where poetry lives

By Srinidhi Rajagopal

Joe Pokorney and Gage Daldine of Fraser High School didn’t expect the experience of making a film about young spoken word artists to change their view of poetry or the city of Detroit, but it ended up doing both.

“I don’t look at poetry as just a form of entertainment any more. Getting to know the impact poetry has had on the young poets who have gone through a lot in life has changed my perspective on this art form,” said Gage, who was one of the cameramen.

Filming poetry performances highlighted the important relationship between audio and visuals in video. “It’s an art-focused theme that brings out a completely different aspect of filmmaking. I realized how important it is to finalize an audio background for the shoot only when we started working on this project,” explained Joe, who edited the video.

Students from Fraser High School film U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as she recites a poem.

Students from Fraser High School film U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as she recites a poem.

They also learned important lessons about being flexible and listening to your material. Joe said he had a set format in mind and knew exactly what he wanted the end result to look like. “We did change the scripts a few times and I came up with some different ideas for the audio, but we wanted to take the creative aspect a bit further, considering the subject as such is very art-centric,” he explained.

The two high school students, who are part of the PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs program, also had the opportunity to interview U.S. poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

“It was my first time shooting and this was a great educational experience. I was really nervous, but this is the kind of project we aspiring filmmakers ought to go through,” Gage said, adding that the process seemed overwhelming at first. He hopes to motivate his peers to explore this form of writing and understand that art, irrespective of what form it takes, aims to inspire.

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