GMS hosts poetry cafe

Published 3:30 pm Friday, December 6, 2013

The Greenville Middle School cafeteria was unrecognizable Tuesday night as the sound of jazz music and snapping fingers filled the air for the Poetry Café.

GMS teacher Denise Schofield came up with the concept for the Poetry Café as a natural extension of the classroom, but it grew into something more along the way.

“We had a unite where we started poetry a few weeks ago, and I was looking at different ideas and came across some different teachers that had used a poetry café as they were teaching the unit,” Schofield said.

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“I thought it would be great if we could do that at our school, and incorporate not only poetry, but open it to students who wanted to perform drama or music.”

After presenting the idea to eighth grade English teacher Marcus North, band director Chris Pryor and several others, the idea grew into a concept and, eventually, a full-blown project.

Though many students wrote original material for the Poetry Café, others recited inspirational works from history’s greats such as “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes, “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson and even “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe.

However, most of the students’ inspiration came from many members of the Greenville High School drama club.

Greenville High School drama teacher Naomi Pryor introduced multiple performances, including Norman Schmitz’s recital of “Sestina: Like” by A.E. Stallings, Schmitz and Callie McCann’s a capella performance of “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie Get Your Gun” and an original, award-winning pantomime performance from duo Antonio Cook and Kenterius Hall called “Mirror Nightmare.”

“I don’t think they realized, until they saw the students from the High School performing, how fun it is to be able to do those types of things,” Schofield said.

Schofield added that exposure to the arts could provide a number of benefits to all students, regardless of their artistic talents.

“It’s very important to me because studies show that students who perform in the arts perform well on tests,” Schofield added.

“Music, drama and any type of poetry means them being able to speak and have that outlet to perform, and it will help them.”

Pryor highlighted some additional benefits to having an interest in performing arts, including scholarship opportunities provided by programs such as the national “Poetry Out Loud” competition.

Ninth through 12th graders are able to compete at the classroom, school and regional level in the program, and the top five from each region are then chosen to advance to the state level.

One student from each state is then chosen to head to Washington, D.C. for a chance to compete for upwards of $20,000 worth of college scholarships.

Schmidt placed in the top five of the region and will advance to the state level in February.

Based on this year’s reception, Schofield hopes to improve the next Poetry Café and, as a result, increase awareness for interest in the arts for students of all ages.

“I was really pleased with the parents and students that came, and from just the ones that I talked to, they really enjoyed it,” Schofield said.

“I’d like to look at incorporating more and making more of a collaborative effort to pull more people in from the community, as well.  It was fun, and we really enjoyed it.”