Hundreds of ETHS students gathered to listen to poems by fellow students on April 7. Photo by Kelley Elwood

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Hundreds of ETHS students packed the Michael Resource Center on April 7 to listen to their peers recite poems they had written as part of the 15th annual Poetry Week. The students came during their lunch hours to hear a diverse range of styles and content; all very personal, all very real.

The celebration began with Nancy Fuller and her group of toddlers from the ETHS childcare center who entertained the crowd with “Oh My No More Pie.”  It was the first year the little kids participated, said Shari Iverson, the co-organizer of the event. When they were done, they exited the room to cheers and smiles.

Adam Gottlieb emceed the poetry open mic.  He also ran two days of workshops during Poetry Week, which also featured performances by the ETHS poetry team and others. Students who wished to read their poems signed up on a clip board as they entered the library and were given a five-minute limit. Mr. Gottlieb reminded the crowd that they were to “respect the mic” and give readers their full attention. This is a “safe space” he told the students and said no derogatory language was to be used. 

Miranda Rivera-Kohr went first with her poem entitled “Poetis.” She began, “Shh. Society’s got no room for poets anymore. The world’s so hush hush we might as well live in a library yet less filled with education…” 

Many others followed, sharing intimate rhymes about dating, families, racism, sexisms, drugs and politics. Listeners snapped their fingers when they heard lines they liked. They supported their peers with applause, encouraging words and hugs when the topics got intense. “This room is filled with the vibrations of your truth,” said Mr. Gottlieb.

This year’s event was slightly bigger than years past. The students are “feeling more ownership” of the event, said Gottlieb. He also felt that the school’s “underground hip hop community came to the surface,” with some poets using music as a backdrop to their words. Some sang their lyrics and danced. With poetry, students “speak in their own voice with language they don’t always get to use in the rest of their school experience. It’s liberating and powerful,” said Mr. Gottlieb.

The open mic event allows students to “speak and be listened to” said Ms. Iverson. The kids are willing to do some “hard life sharing. It’s a sacred moment we are a part of.”