Take one public high school
in the Bronx,
An English teacher with a
Eighteen teenagers from eighteen
very different backgrounds,
An open mike,
What do you have?
You'll have Bronx Masquerade
by Nikki Grimes.
When school first started
this year, we all pretty much thought we had each
other figured out:
You know, like that dude Tyrone
is a bad boy (don't wanna mess with him).
The really tall girl has to
be a ball player.
That kid they call "Jump Shot"
is the dumb jock.
Those girls are preps.
Then there were the nerds
and that one kid they call "Preach" is just a
But when Mr. Ward started
Open Mike Fridays, and we started reading our
poems to the class, we started
hearing what was buried in our hearts and
seeing past the skin color
of the kids we were in class with.
*And little by little each
week, we started revealing more and more of what
was really hiding behind the
masks we'd been wearing.
*Note: I do the entire
booktalk holding a mask over my eyes, when I get to
this part, I slowly pull it
away completely removing it at the end of this
L. Wright, email@example.com)
Tyrone Bittings is a bad dude.
He lives in the Bronx. His dad was one of the few dads in the community
that didnít run out on him after he was born. His dad was killed
in a drive by shooting. Tyrone hates school. All he wants to
do is be a rapper. No one seems to be getting though to Tyrone until
Mr. Ward, his English teacher, allows a student to read his poem out loud
to the class. Next thing you know, students are skipping classes
and sneaking into Mr. Wardís class to listen as Tyrone and 17 other students
read poetry on open mike Fridays. Their poetry. Poems about
basketball. Poems about love. Poems about friends. Poems
about death. Poems about survival in the Bronx. No one wants
to discuss what life is really like until they begin to read their poetry,
then they let down their guard and expose their innermost thoughts and
feelings. Nikki Grimesí Coretta Scott King Award winner, Bronx Masquerade.
(Melissa Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org, MLIS
Program, University of South Carolina)
in the world could writers seventy or eighty years ago during the Harlem
Renaissance possibly have to say to teenagers today? Not much, Mr. Ward's
English class assumes. Who writes poetry? Not us, Mr. Ward's English class
there strict rules about what poetry is and isn't? Very strict rules, they
person in their right mind would get up and share their poems with the
class? No one we know, the students in Mr. Ward's class assume. Why would
we risk showing our weaknesses and our true selves to the people in this
class? No reason, they assume. What could Hispanic, white, and black
students from very different cultures and homes have in common? Very little,
Mr. Ward's class assumes. Until ... Open Mike Days are introduced to the
class. What begins as a day set aside once a month in this one class quickly
becomes a weekly occurrence that has the students in Mr. Ward's English
class learning more about themselves, each other, and their environment
than they ever thought imaginable.
by: Cathy Garland for South
Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2005
Why do we need poetry? Sure,
I have heard poetry is some powerful stuff, but in reality is it really
that powerful? Well, actually it is. Poetry can change oneís perspective.
It can also change the way one feels towards oneself and towards the world.
When Mr. Ward started the Open Mike Friday, boy, was that a joke, until
everyone started enjoying the spotlight and enjoying sharing his or her
thoughts and feelings. Even Tyrone, an inner city teenager got into this
poetry thing. It was a gamble at first. Imagine getting in front of a class
and exposing your inner feelings. Man! Who would want to do that?
But as luck would have it, Open Mike Friday was a hit and eighteen teenagers
actually created a close bond that would pull them together so close that
no one could separate them.
Wow! Now that is poetry in action. Poetry is powerful!
(Angela A. Price, email@example.com,
USC MLIS Graduate Student)