Poetry “slams” library week

RB held this year’s annual poetry slam, Tuesday, April 13th. This year’s poetry slam fell on the second day of National Library Week.  The date of national library week is set each year by the American Library Association (ALA).  Every day of Library week was filled with library related events. Tuesday’s poetry slam may have been the largest event, as it included guest poets, student workshops, and more.

English teacher Bridget Wilmot, put on the slam, which ran in a three stage workshop. Three local poets were invited by RB this year. Legendary Marc Smith invented the first poetry slam in 1986, and since then it has spread across the world.

“He is the father of poetry slams, it’s really exciting we get to meet him,”

Improv performer, poet for 10 years, and co founder of the Speak Easy Poetry EnsembleMary Fons also attended, as well as Dan Sullivan, another Chicago poet.

Marc Smith, a poet for 25 years, had the fundamentals of poetry workshop, where he watched the students rehearse, and enlightened them on professional skills of poetry. “I never thought I would be doing something like this, but I have been for a while now, and I like it. When people are young, they are a little more idealistic,” said Smith. Smith’s advice to aspiring poets was, “get up and perform as much as you can.”

This was Fons’ third time at RB, and she’ll often she does workshops at schools. Fons said, “I like working with students because they are more open to experiment.”

“The poets are the judges for the poetry slam, and help run it,’. Wilmot explained the three stages of the workshop. “In the morning, students heard the poets, and wrote poems with the poets. In the afternoon, the students got into teams and competed. The final stage was an open mic session where everyone was able to speak.” Wilmot added,” the winners of the slam got small prizes, but the point is to have fun and enjoy the poetry. We try not to emphasize the competition part of it.”

Senior Morgan Vogel was the 1st place winner of the slam. Between 40 and 60 pre selected students attended the workshop, which took place from second to seventh period.

Freshman Stephanie Wolff has been writing poetry since seventh grade, and found the slam to be a “fun experience” Sophomore Grace Salerno said the poets were, “very interesting and enlightening people.” ” Meeting the poets was intimidating and exciting,” said Freshman Sarah Ulanowicz.

The Library/Instructional Technology Department Chair, Co-Webmaster Doreen Fritz said, “I think the poetry slam went over very well. It’s a way to celebrate free libraries. In America, we have the right to read whatever we want, and not everybody has that right, and not all schools have libraries.” The poetry slam is part of library week because it “involves words”

Fritz spoke further on the importance of the poetry slam by saying, “it’s popular with the students because they like meeting poets. We don’t have a writing club or a poetry club at RB, apart from FACETS, so we do things like this for those students.”

Fritz spoke more about the meaning of library week, saying “we also display resources like ways to get published; part of high school is helping students find ways to build on their hobbies, so they can turn it into a career. It’s a celebratory week”.

An example of helping students learn more about their hobbies would be Wednesday’s event, where two local professional journalists came to speak to RB students. Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, and Rick Morrissey, of the Chicago Sun-Times were at RB to speak with students about their experiences of being a journalist. Fritz said they spoke of, “what the life of a journalist is with all the talk of newspapers disappearing; whether or not students should consider getting into journalism, it’s another avenue to introduce students with people who write for a living.” One of the quotes painted on the wall in the newly renovated library is from Mary Schmich. “The author visit was successful. It was exciting to have such notable people share their journalism experiences,  Fritz said.

Thursday the 15th was read-a-Latte day at the library, where teachers brought their classes in for book talks, and reading sessions accommodated by a hot drink and a muffin. Friday the 16th, is bring your child to work day, Day of Silence, and the final day of library week.

The library Olympics, an RB library tradition, did not take place this year due to the volume of other events held. “We always plan more than we are able to do. Between the story reading for the children, and everything else, we were too busy”.  The library Olympics are a library week tradition where library related games are played and competitions are held at the library that follow a specific theme.

 “This is a nice week the ALA have set up for people, and I hope this sticks around in people’s minds. Its’ not just a library event,” said Fritz, “it’s a way to remind people that even though we are way in the corner now, we are still important to what’s going on in the building. I want to thank all the teachers and students who helped make it possible.”