• Brave New Alaskan Voices participants, leaders take the K-Bay stage to showcase spoken word arts
by Hannah Heimbuch
At times it was hard to believe that the word-power and masterly crafted emotional grit coming off the K-Bay Caffe stage Saturday night was from such young poets. Using the natural rhythms and cadence of the spoken word, they delved deep into relationships, history, family and tragedy. They did it with humor, grace and above all, style.
Performances by Anchorage youth leaders and their adult poet mentors showcased the power of spoken word art, and the very meat of what a large group of Homer youth had spent the last two days studying.
Brave New Alaskan Voices, which aims to build literacy through poetry and performance, came to Homer as a part of their mission to spread safe spaces for such expression throughout Alaska. BNAV performances were followed by a mock poetry slam that included Homer’s emerging young poets.
“Homer kids took the stage by storm,” said Brianna Allen of Bunnell Street Arts Center. Bunnell collaborated with the Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic’s R.E.C. Room and Homer Foundation to bring the workshops to Homer.
“The Homer kids clearly took the ball and ran with it,” Allen said. “Cody Davidson has been doing a lot of work with a pretty rad group from Flex, through Youth on Record AK, so there was quite a group already comfortable and confident with both writing and sharing.”
Junior Irene Pellegrini was nervous about walking onto stage, but happy to be in a space with fellow writers, especially after two days of writing workshops with the visiting troupe.
“There’s so many good vibes here like that, it does kind of push you onto the stage, it’s safe,” Pellegrini said.
She said the style and form of performance poetry challenged her and her writing in a new way. “The second day we had to write to like a beat,” Pellegrini said. “It was really cool. We just had to get all our thoughts on paper in a really short amount of time.”
Fellow Junior Damon Del Toro couldn’t agree more.
“I took the workshop on Thursday and it was an incredible experience,” he said. “I’ve never performed but I write a lot of poetry. It shows who you are personally. It brings you to a whole new personal level that you’re sharing with people.”
Allen echoed the students’ high praise of the BNAV workshops, which saw a turnout of 22 on the first day and 34 on the second.
“I was totally blown away by how efficient the workshops were,” she said. “The Homer kids impressed me not only in their bravery, but also in their ability to help me remember myself at that age.”
The participants were able inspire each other, Allen said, through mostly youth-led workshops that brought out the voices of genuine artists.
“The power that spoken word slam poetry can ripple within an intently listening crowd — the immediate release a poet can feel — is so intense,” Allen said. “It’s art in the moment, real and raw, and because of that nature, it’s especially easy for youth to activate.”
It was clear that those taking the stage were also taking a risk by sharing their creations with the audience, but apt listeners snapped and nodded their support. Snapping fingers is a way that spoken word audiences can cheer on the brave poet in front of them without drowning out their words. A low rumble of snapping fingers echoed performers’ lines Saturday night, a clear and lively connection between speaker and audience.
A strong effort is now underway to create a permanent space for performance poetry and mentorship in Homer. Leaders from eight different community organizations met on Saturday afternoon to discuss how to develop a program that can continue to foster the great amount of talent and opportunities for expression seen through the BNAV workshops and performances this week.
“I hope Homer can develop its own slam team — all ages would be great — and compete on a national level if not 2014, then the year after,” Allen said. “The most beautiful part about that is the youth want to lead it themselves. I’m hoping with their commitment and group organization skills, that our supporting community entities can find ways to be available and provide support in any way needed to help guide this group to grow to its undeniable potential.”
Freshman Siara Cordes hopes that she can continue to have this kind of experience and expressive space in Homer. The workshops were great, she said, and she wants the collaboration and inspiration it fostered to keep going.
“Because it was definitely a way that you could work with people,” Cordes said. “We got to kind of bounce lines off each other, and it was really cool that everyone could get together and feel so safe.”
Brave New Alaskan Voices was founded in 2011 by Anchorage poets Trey Josey and Kima Hamilton. The two mentors accompanied their youth leaders to Homer to share their program.
For more information about future youth poetry or poetry slam opportunities in Homer, contact the R.E.C. Room at (907) 235-6726, or Bunnell Street Arts Center at (907) 235-2662.
Comments are closed