Teen poets writing in a troubled city
“Poetry is a world where anything is possible.”
Those are the words of eighth grader Patty Lare, and they very well could be the motto of “InsideOut,” a Detroit literary arts program which brings professional writers into the classrooms of 27 Detroit public schools. Lare has taken the class for four years and her parents say it has given their shy child a powerful voice. The program was the brainchild of Terry Blackhawk, a poet and former teacher, who realized that poetry allowed children to express feelings they otherwise were reluctant to talk about. “We often see students who are afraid of writing. They come armed with whiteout. So we tell them over and over that there’s no right answer. What they have to say matters.”
Eleven year old Ricki Porter says she likes to write down memories — whether happy, sad or embarrassing. Once, she says, she wrote a entire poem about crying on her birthday in kindergarten. Poetry let’s “somebody else know more about me.”
Funded with grants and private donations, InsideOut provides writing workshops for more than 5,000 students, both in the classroom and after school. And at the end of the year, each student is given a published book containing some of their work.
Marcus Garvey Academy principal James Hearn said he was skeptical when InsideOut initially approached him about starting classes at his school. But now he’s a convert. “This poetry really gets students truly motivated and excited. And I’m talking about my football players, my athletes, my basketball players. They want poetry,” Hearn told the NewsHour’s chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.
To see excerpts from students currently in the InsideOut program, check out the slideshow below.
You can also watch chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s broadcast report on poetry in Detroit’s Inside Out program.