National Poetry Month Read-In in the IRC

Blogging live from the National Poetry Month Celebration in the IRC, which is being held from noon until 12:45 p.m. on Tues., April 28, 2015.

IMSA English teacher Devon Madon opened the poetry read-in by explaining that Latino poetry rejects traditional categories. To illustrate her point, she mentioned guest poet, Michael Reyes, and said that his work doesn’t fit into one category, but is part of a long tradition of Latino poets who explain their own  self narrative through their work.

“His poetry is not only art, but a tool for social advancement,” said Ms. Madon.

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IMSA students read their favorite poems, some of which were in English and some in Spanish. Evelyn opened the read-in by reading her own poem. One of the favorite selections students chose to read were “Cloud” by Sandra Cisneros and another was an excerpt from “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents.”

Two students chose poems by Pablo Neruda as their read-in selection.

After all the students read, Michael Reyes came onto center stage, explaining that he performs spoken word poetry that has not necessarily been created for the page.

008He asked how many in the audience had been exposed to poetry outside school, for example at open mic night, and then proceeded to talk a little about what he liked and didn’t like about open mic nights.

“For me poetry is a weapon,” said Mr. Reyes, as he explained that many years ago poets were storytellers who passed along the news of the day. Mr. Reyes said that he follows in the ancient tradition of these storytellers.

As part of his introduction to the audience, Mr. Reyes touched on his background, explaining that he is a Chicano who was raised here but has ties to Mexico. He said he is a person of color who has been reflecting on what’s happening in Baltimore (referring to the riots in the city after a black man died in police custody).

Mr. Reyes said that his first piece of freestyle poetry is an interactive piece and he asked audience members to participate by giving him words to use. Okra, smile, laughter, heritage, applesauce, empower, love and teach were thrown out for him to use.

In between performing, Mr. Reyes, shared more about himself with the audience. He said he’s recently moved to Detroit, MI after spending 14 years in Chicago developing creative space for others. He has gone from a “me” poet to a “we” poet who talks about his heritage.

Mr. Reyes will be spending the afternoon at IMSA. He mentioned some of the different venues he performs in, which make up his sphere of influence. Today he’s at a school, this Sat. he’ll perform at his home and then on Sunday he’ll be at a prison.

The audience responded positively to his performance. Mr. Reyes is a hit.