Poetic minds prevail in the halls at Parkdale High
Dec. 23, 2004
Corina E. Rivera
Staff Writer

Left: Aliya Carter, left, shares

some of her ideas about how

to break through writers block

with some fellow student poets

at a poetry club at Parkdale

High School.





Christopher Anderson/The Gazette

After school Friday, the beats to artists Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams' hit, "Drop it like it's hot," could be heard in Parkdale High School's hallways.

While there were two young men rapping to the track, they were not the popular artists. Rather, they were high school students dabbling in their art form of choice: poetry.

The students, senior Tony Kittrell, 18, and sophomore Patrick Matam, 15, were freestyling ­ rendering impromptu rhyming -- after a meeting with fellow members of their poetry club, Lyrical Storm.

The club started two years ago, said its president, senior Aliya Carter, 18. "Poetry lets you express things that you can't normally say to people. It gives you a chance to change someone's mindset by sending a positive message," she said.

The poems, written by club members in ninth through 12th grades, are accompanied at times by song or music and range in topic such as love, politics and religion.

For instance, senior Marcus Long's poem "Teach me," which he performed Friday, touched on issues ranging from slaves' emancipation to the civil rights movement.

Referring to his poetry, Long said, "I don't really write it; I say it from the top of my head. I get inspired by epiphanies."

The club's sponsor, English teacher Neville Adams, said the group meets twice a week and performs biweekly for other students at poetry slams. At the sessions, poets are judged on creativity and content. At meetings, they perform their works and learn writing skills, he said.

The club also takes part in the monthly "Open Mic" night at Chinatown's Starbucks. Last year, the club beat other county schools and University of Maryland faculty and graduate students at a poetry slam at the university, he said.

"It opens up their creativity and increases their writing and critical thinking skills," Adams said of poetry.

For sophomore Kwaku Bentil, 15, it also helps promote his self-esteem. "I come here and read my stuff. Everybody's like, 'That's good, keep it up,'" he said.

Similarly, sophomore Chant'l Martin, 15, said, "They give me feedback. We help each other out."

For junior Christy Butler, 16, the club and the writing experience provides friendship in time of need. "I lost my mom and poetry helps you cope with that," she said.

Indeed, life influences their rhymes. Kittrell said, "I write poetry about everything in my life that's real." Matam said, "I write everything from grieving, heartache, life, family, Jesus, [and] my religion."

Carter said poetry provides a needed venue for her and fellow youth. "Not having an outlet causes you to be destructive," she said, noting how after school programs like the club help deter youth from negative behavior.

"We get a chance to bond and really understand that we're all the same."

E-mail Corina E. Rivera at crivera@gazette.net.