“I’m the greatest…I said that before I even knew I was…Don’t tell me I can’t do something…Don’t tell me it’s impossible…Don’t tell me I’m not the greatest…I am…We are…Double the greatest,” shouted a room full of approximately 175 BHS students in “call and response” fashion to visiting Poet Harlym 1Two5 (Jamele Adams).
Harlym 1Two5 and Jennifer Jean were the two visiting poets in attendance for the Second Annual BHS Student Day of Poetry on November 7, 2016. The BHS SDOP, hosted by Poetic Ramblings and organized by advisors Shannon Janovitz and Callie Graham, in conjunction with Sara Siegel (Mass Poetry’s Program Director), offered students a chance to develop their writing style, acknowledge the power of their voice, and collaborate with local schools to build connections. Students who participated had the opportunity to learn from established poets and generate strategies for their own writing.
Harlym 1Two5 is described in the online program for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival this way: “Poetry climbs the limbs of wind soaked dream tops And sherlocked gumdrops missing teeth. Shoot the city And suffocate the criminal. Strangle the miscarriage of peace Give people a reason to love themselves. This is my bio.” The Dean of Students at Brandeis and a well recognized slam poet, he has a powerful ability to connect with and bring out student voice.
Jennifer Jean’s most recent poetry collection is “The Fool.” Her work has appeared in: Drunken Boat, Caketrain, Denver Quarterly, Tidal Basin Review, Poets/Artists, and much much more. She’s Co-director of the Morning Garden Artist Retreats, Poetry Editor for The Compassion Project, and teaches Free2Write poetry workshops at Amirah—a safe house for sex-trafficking survivors. She also teaches writing at Pine Manor College.
The day included two workshops led by the poets. Harlym’s workshop focused on the strength of student voice, centering around the theme “writing is my power / it’s how I exercise my freedom / speaking, delivers me.” Jennifer ran a workshop titled “Poets Respond” on writing poetry about the news.
Billerica Memorial High School students, along with their advisor Catie Button, were in also in attendance, as were two advisors for Chelmsford looking to initiate their own poetry programs.
The call and response came at the end of a period-long assembly in which Burlington High School students, in conjunction with Billerica students, performed original pieces in front of an open mic. Following the students, Harlym 1Two5 shared two powerful poems focused on the power of unity, understanding, and voice.