Hilliard Memorial Middle School

Betrayal, love triangles, friendship gone bad and one poem that began, “if the world were made of sugar.” Students at Hilliard Memorial are invited to make it, shake and let it all out at a monthly open mike (see picture below). It is a come as you really are event hosted by librarian Terry Lord.

For other schools interested in a model performance poetry event that seems to really rock and not roll anyone into detention or unemployment, Hilliard has it going on. Here’s how it works — on the last Friday of every month there is an open mike poetry jam in the library, seventh and eighth grades alternate months. On Wednesday of that week, students need to register for lunch and poetry. On Friday, the poets get pizza, a soda and cookies (for $2, cost of a school lunch) and a lunch period of pure poetry.

Terry says she has never had trouble with kids being inappropriate in their poems. Poets realize if they foul out with their language, the poetry privilege will go away. Kids bring her poems they think might be in violation of school rules and defer to her judgment. It’s all done on the honor system and it works. Look at the happy faces below. Just in case the kids didn’t know how lucky they were that they had this incredible opportunity to express themselves, I let them know that events such as this at middle schools is R-A-R-E rare. They responded by giving Ms. Lord a standing ovation.

My visit to Hilliard was enhanced by all the performance poets in the audience and by the great job the teaching staff did preparing the kids for my visit. Very cool. Thanks to everyone.

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