Some artists – poets – despise reading their works to audiences or in schools. I don’t and here’s why. Every now and again – each time, hopefully – it becomes crystal clear why one does what one does in terms of work in schools.
Today I performed at two theatres in two schools. One high school had approximately 2,500 pupils, a big school in any country. I did a forty minute reading to about four hundred pupils in the schools theatre that would be the pride of any city. The technical sound is pitch perfect At Lord Beaverbrook High. This means that each nuance, each note inside a note, that urges from my mouth is picked up and projected with care to each member of the audience. It was time to begin my reading. It is important to set the tone. I set mine by saying “. It is really an honour to be here. It’s my first time in America”.
By the end of the reading they, through the poems, have laughed cried and danced inside their hearts and minds and so have I. A magic happens; an indefinable otherness which leaves us tired and happy, realising that there is something about art and artists which puts us in touch with ourselves and with the world around us in a way that can not be achieved by any other means. Even religion depends on art to convey its centre – books stories (the bible the Koran) and pictures, (statues stained glass windows).
I am not blowing my own trumpet here. Because believe you me there is a lot of work invested in making something seem effortless but I am sharing with you the effect that an artist can have in a school environment. How an artist in a school can send ripples that will splash inside the eyes of the children and spill over into their homes and their lives
and they are the artists of tomorrow. Here is an email I received from a teacher the day after this event at Lord Beaverbrook High
“I am an English teacher at LordBeaverbrookHigh School – where you came and performed yesterday morning as a part of Wordfest – and I wanted to send along my gratitude for your work. Not only are you an incredibly talented poet and performer, but you lit a fire beneath my students. It is one thing for me to expose them to stuff, to claim that words live lives outside of shoeboxes shoved under beds, and quite another for them to feel it.
Today in class, they came up with all sorts of ideas for performing poems as part of a ‘Random Acts of Poetry’ week including: bombarding other classes with paper airplanes that have poetry written on them, duct-taping themselves to walls and reciting poetry about entrapment, creating random paper barriers that other students will have to break through in order to get to wherever they’re going, interrupting math and science lessons with 30-second beat-box poems, making banners of manifesto poetry to hang in prominent places around the school.
On the way out the door, one of my students said to another – ‘man, I *love*