Market Days event to offer teens chance to perform poetry
Teenagers in New Hampshire have no shortage of opportunities to practice sports or play music. But Concord Public Library Foundation board member George Geers wants to make sure they also have plenty of chances to engage with poetry and perform at spoken word events in the area, too.
“There are kids here who like poetry, and we need to give them a venue,” he said. “I don’t think there are a lot of places for them yet.”
That’s why the library foundation teamed up with the Poetry Society of New Hampshire to organize the second annual Open Mic for Teens at the Concord Market
Days festival on Friday. At the event from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on South Main Street next to Red River Theatres, any student who reads an original work or poem by another writer will receive a gift certificate to a downtown Concord business.
“I’m just totally delighted that we can have these high school students stand up in front of a mic and recite a classic poem or stand up and recite one of their own works. You don’t get that in too many places,” Geers said. “Billy Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, (William Butler) Yeats – they can recite whatever speaks to them.”
Sam Wood, a junior at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, will be making the trip to Concord for the event to recite “Backdrop Addresses Cowboy,” one of her favorite poems by Canadian poet Margaret Atwood. Wood, 15, also performs with Poetry Out Loud, a nationwide recitation contest supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, and competed with nine other finalists from Kingswood this year. She said she sees poetry as a “really easy way” for teenagers to connect with their emotions.
“Teens are so focused on figuring out their emotions and figuring out how the world works and how they feel about it, and poetry is all about putting that into concise words,” she said. “Poetry is really all about saying as much as you can in as few words as you can, in as interesting and new and creative a way as possible. . . . It lets you use words in as pure and nice a way as you can.”
Gordon Lang teaches journalism and 12th-grade English at Kingswood and also serves as treasurer for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. He advises the Kingswood’s Write Club and asked Wood and other club members to consider performing at the Concord event after Geers asked whether the Poetry Society would sponsor the event with the library foundation.
“It’s about connecting kids with words again,” Lang said. “Kids really latch onto this and embrace it. We happen to live in a poetry-rich state with more poets per capita than any other state in the union. There are more poet laureates from New Hampshire than from any other state.”
He leverages the “educational arm” of the Poetry Society to bring New Hampshire poets into classrooms across the state, including his own, and said the exposure to poetry improves his students’ writing abilities significantly.
“Getting kids to memorize and slow down the reading process, looking at each word, they start to realize that there’s a reason the writer chose to do it this way,” he said. “And that changes their writing. They start to think, ‘Where do I put the emphasis?’ ‘How do I want to say this?’ Reading and memorizing someone else’s poem is probably as close as you can get to that poet’s actual writing process.”
Last year, about 12 students participated in the event, but Geers said he hopes the partnership with the Poetry Society will bring a bigger crowd this year. Students are asked to register in advance on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or the library foundation at email@example.com. Readers should keep their presentation to three minutes or less.
(Ann Marie Jakubowski can be reached at 369-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AMJakubowski.)