Tomorrow night, the Booker T. Washington Creative Writing magnet will hold their Poetry Reading in The Cellar, the black box theater space at the school. This reading will include students in the ninth through twelfth grades.
Maytreecia Harriell, who is a senior, is excited about the reading. “Even though I hate poetry, I have been in the poetry reading all three years,” she told me. “I love all the attention on me!” That sentiment was echoed by Chamberlyn Gravatt, a junior who is reading for the third year. Though she also hates poetry, she likes showcasing her work because it is hers.
Lillie Marie Johnson and Alexandria Hale fall on the other end of the spectrum. “I love poetry,” says Alex, and Lillie agreed, but added, “I’m also excited [because] it allows me to perform.”
Pate Snell, a junior who is new to the magnet, voiced that he was nervous because “poetry is not [his] strong suit” but he “wants to be a part of it.”
This nervous excitement is not only held in the upperclassmen. Sophomore Trenae Campell says she’s excited to use what she learned last year in her first poetry reading to improve her performance. “I am . . . excited to see how the ninth graders are going to do this year . . . I’m just excited!”
Christin Watson, a freshman, said,”I’m, like, nervous but I’m also excited at the same time, considering the fact that it’s my first poetry reading. So I’m kinda, like, ready, and then I’m not.” She said that she feels a bit of pressure about being the second reader but she also knows like “everyone is going to do a good job.”
I also talked with Ms. Zestlan Simmons, an English teacher at BTW Magnet who had previously been a creative writing student herself, and she reflected on her first poetry reading. “My teacher had to pull me from the back because I was so nervous,” then added “Here is something about reading, sharing your soul basically, with a group of people you don’t know. Poetry is very exposing. If you’re not an extrovert…is quite emotionally draining. Then there’s this moment when your concerned about the response.”
When asked if she thinks reading poetry is a good idea for high school students, she responded, “It is. They need to express, they need to speak, even if it’s wrong. There has to be an outlet.”
This year’s reading is Mr. Dickson’s fifteenth as the magnet’s instructor, and he is happy with its growth in the last two years. Typically, twelve to fifteen students would read, but last year there were twenty-four performers and this year twenty. Dickson told me that the reward is having the audience for the students. He said that, not only is it the most appropriate venue for a performance by the magnet, it also a food drive. The admission price is and always has been nonperishable food items and monetary donations for the Montgomery Area Food Bank.