Visiting Poet Series Spurs Students’ Passion for Spoken Word

posted April 20, 2016 

Spoken word—an art form that combines poetry with performance—has captured the hearts and minds of Red Cloud Indian School students. Many have written and performed their own poetry through Tȟéča Wówapi Káǧa Okȟólakičhiye (TWKO), an on-campus writers’ society that provides students with a safe place to explore new avenues of literary creativity. Many also take part in Dances with Words, a reservation-wide, afterschool program that holds interactive writing workshops and encourages youth to perform their work at local, regional and national poetry slams.

To fuel students’ passion for poetry even more, this year The Heritage Center and Red Cloud teachers worked together to launch the Visiting Poet Series. Through the series, students have been able to engage directly with professional poets—experiencing their performances and participating in workshops to develop their own writing skills. Audrey Jacobs, The Heritage Center’s museum educator, says the series has inspired students to take their work to the next level.

“Being able to write and talk with professional, working poets has really opened our students up to a whole world of possibilities,” said Audrey. “While they build on their technical writing skills through these workshops, there’s something more intangible that happens during these visits. Our visiting poets interact with students on such a deep level and give them the courage to express themselves more completely. They show our students how a life-long pursuit of creativity can become a career.”

The Visiting Poet Series kicked off in the fall with a visit from Suheir Hammad, a Tony Award-winning poet, activist, and alumna of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam who led three days of educational workshops and also delivered a stunning performance of her own work. Tanaya Winder was the Center’s second visiting poet. As a published and prominent Native writer, she inspired students to consider the possibilities of pursuing a creative career in writing.

To conclude this year’s series, the renowned performance poet Emanuelee “Outspoken Bean” will visit campus on April 28 and 29. As both an entertainer and educator, Outspoken Bean has performed spoken word around the world, ranking as one of the ten best poets at the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2013. He has also worked extensively with youth to encourage self-expression through creative writing and performance. Today he serves as the lead coach of Meta-Four Houston, one of Texas’ top slam poetry teams and part of the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program.

This will be Outspoken Bean’s second time on Red Cloud’s campus—he hosted a writing workshop for high school students last year—and he is looking forward to what this next visit will bring.

“What I want students to take away from these workshops is the desire to explore beyond where they are—to use whatever talent and skills they have to expand and broaden their horizons,” he said from his home in San Antonio.

During his visit, Outspoken Bean will lead three larger assemblies with different groups of students, including middle schoolers at Our Lady of Lourdes and middle and high school students at Red Cloud. He uses interactive exercises, getting students involved and engaged through writing activities, call and response poetry composition, and physical performance. And like all visiting poets, he will share his own work at a community performance that is open to all.

For Audrey, Outspoken Bean’s visit is the perfect culmination of this series.

“I know Bean’s energy and style will really embolden our students to break out of their shells—to write and perform in ways they haven’t before,” she said.

“It’s been amazing to watch the entire series unfold and to see how students are responding. One of our student poets told me how much it’s meant to her to read one of our visiting poets’ books. It’s a deeper relationship she has with that book because we were able to bring these artists to campus. This series has really opened our students’ minds to the power of self-expression, in whatever form it takes.”

Guests can join in on Outspoken Bean’s public performance on Thursday, April 28th at 6:00pm in Cuny Commons (located in Red Cloud High School.) For more information contact Museum Educator Audrey Jacobs by calling The Heritage Center at (605) 867-8257.


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