April is National Poetry Month. And Jazz Appreciation Month. As well as School Library Month.
Well, most students and staff at Staples High School.
At least, they knew it last Friday. That’s when the library, and Liz Olbrych’s Reading and Writing Poetry class, hosted a day-long “Poetry Slam and Jazz Celebration.”
No one knew what to expect. After 7 hours of music and poems by students and staff, what they got was joy, thanks to the impromptu, improvisational feel of the unstructured, honest and very cool event.
Harry Moritz epitomized the free-flowing spirit. The senior wrote poems all day long, then stepped up to the mic and read them. One described school as a jail, but lauded the library for allowing the slam/jam to happen — while chastising himself for oversleeping and missing one of the jazz groups.
“Harry was on fire,” a staff member said. “His poems really evolved as the day went on.”
“Everyone was so into it,” Harry praised. “Having thoughts, writing them down, getting up, presenting them in front of everybody — it’s very exciting.”
Marquell Washington stunned the crowd with a deeply personal, very compelling poem called “Epiphany of a Doubt.” “Wow,” a fellow student said. “I never knew he had that in him.”
Senior Adam Bangser recited a poem he wrote that, he said, “got me into college.” A trio of juniors read Dr. Seuss.
One girl offered an ode to her Italian instructor — in Italian. Another introduced a poem she had written in 4th grade — when her teacher, then as now, was Ms. Olbrych.
Adults read too. English instructor Dan Geraghty’s poem answered a question teachers often hear: “What do you make?” His answer: He makes students work, write and think.
Townwide coordinator of information and technology literacy Bill Derry gave a particularly animated rendering of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”
Ameen-Storm Abo-Hamzy was a guest. With his do-rag, multiple piercings and vivid tattoos, he looks anything like a poet. But his poem — about assumptions people make based on his name and his looks — had his audience hanging on every word.
Ameen, it turns out, is a Vietnam vet — and a 4th-generation Connecticut resident.
Friday’s poetry touched on all the usual topics: School. Nature. Parents. Friends. The planet. Pets. Love. Sex.
Happy Jazz Appreciation Month. Happy School Library Month.
And especially, Happy National Poetry Month.