BFA, Fairfax gives poetry a chance
Time will tell if stage fright lapses
By LISA M. BOUCHER
FAIRFAX- On a recent Friday night, Bellows Free Academy; Fairfax (BFA) was host for its first annual night of poetry; "Speak Louder Please."
On a makeshift stage of a single wooden riser, in the soft light of a floor lamp, at the far end of the BFA cafeteria, approximately 10 students bravely read an original piece or 'performed' a classic prepared for the Poetry Out Loud competition (see accompanying note).
Some students also read the works of those students who were unable or too shy to attend.
The cafeteria was transformed on Jan 14 into a coffee house-comfy chairs and sofas were hauled in from other areas of the school. The French Club and English class, which are each taking a trip this spring, to France and England, respectively; supplied baked goods and coffee.
BFA Writing Center Coordinator Kellie Charron and English teacher, Fred Griffin, were emcees for the event. Griffin pleased the crowd with his own mini-version of slam poetry. It was Charron's writing class students who planned Speak Louder Please.
"We're all very nervous," Charron said prior to the performances. "Excited, but nervous." She confessed that she and Griffin were concerned that there wouldn't be anyone in attendance except themselves and the students reading. It was hard to know with this being the first one.
Charron said she tried to open the opportunity up to any student who liked to write and might want to participate, but may be too shy to have their work acknowledged, by having it read anonymously.
She sent the word out, but no one came forward.
"They can know their work is being read," she said. "They don't have to have the fear of being up there. It hasn't happened yet."
The next Poetry Out Loud session is already being thought out for next year, so perhaps the students, who were considering it this year, but "got cold feet" in the end, will fmd the courage over the next 10-12 months and prepare.
The Writing Center at BFA is new, it was started last year to assist students with any writing issues they might have. It's
described as "for any class, any level, any discipline, for any part of the writing process."
Charron is now more centrally located in a space of her own and is available to help students who are either sent to her by a teacher or who (more often) randomly walk in to set up a time to meet with her. Last year she shared a space with the Driver's Ed class at. the far end of the school where most students never ventured. She sees a lot more traffic now, but acknowledges a time crunch.
"With the exception of seniors, there is no free time, really," said Charron. "Except for work block, it's hard for students to find time to come down-they need to be in class."
BFA has a daily 30-minute period that is used as a study hall or for a club activity: It's a competitive time period for those with
multiple interests. Being such a small school, many students at BFA wear several hats.
As Writing Club Coordinator, Charron has put writing opportunities in front of those students that they might not have found otherwise. She has created a Web blog available to them and has a bulletin board with information on numerous writing opportunities, competitions, writing prompts, even poetry readings, slam poetry competitions, and more. These are all things that she spends time researching for the group.
Charron feels that poetry, even more than prose, sharpens a student's ability as a critical thinker, because it involves all aspects of language and a need to know about phonics.
"It's a great tool for creative expression," she said. "I think it helps with reading comprehension."
Poetry is particularly important for teens, she feel, because there is an element of the unexplainable and even though it's analyzed and one might think about the author's intent, there is something that makes. it unlike anything else - and, therefore; hard
to grasp in some or most cases. She speculates that readers likely aren't supposed to dig for meaning in the poets' words. It's possible they don't want that.
"I think poetry is a risk, but it's freeing," she said. "I see it with my writing club. They want to write poetry more than anything else.
Whatever they're feeling - it just comes out in stanzas and rhyme. I don't know what it is about it. It's very personal."
Poetry Out Loud
Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest
that was created by the National Endowment for
the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Students
from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the
U.S. VIrgin Islands, and Puerto Rico compete at
the state level for a chance to move on to the