In spring 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, House of SpeakEasy’s SpeakTogether initiative pivoted from in-person workshops for high school students to virtual classroom sessions. Working with educators at Talent Unlimited High School in New York City, we coordinated a series of spoken word and poetry sessions with poet Sheri Booker, who worked with a class of 10th-grade students to develop their voices and encourage them to embrace the power of their own stories.
Over the course of six weeks, during which they experienced a global pandemic, a national lockdown, and uprisings against police brutality and structural racism, the students composed and performed original works of poetry for their teachers and peers. The workshop culminated in a series of final poems that are reflected in this collection; each poem is marked by these unprecedented moments in history as well as Booker’s guidance. In them, you will hear deconstructions of gender and culture, calls to political action in the face of racial violence, and meditations on adolescence.
These poems are instant artifacts of a pivotal time in our culture, and the collection is a testament to the vision, creativity, and resilience of these students and their teacher.
You can read their individual poems and listen to recordings of them reciting their stellar works below.
Gazelle by Genesis Alcantara
Final Poem by Hailey Anagnostopuolos
Final Poem by Janeejah Anderson
Final Poem by Theo Aufray
Final Poem by Kayla Barbee
Please Leave Me Alone… by Sophia Guelke
Final Poem by Lynzie Hamilton
Final Poem by April Kuntse
The Book That Was Chosen by Rose Macias
Final Poem by Chiara Manuguerra
Final Poem by Grace Nelson
Final Poem by Anya Paul
Final Poem by Ella Pemberton
Final Poem by Leezum Regensberg
Final Poem by Branavan Rivera
Final Poem by Ruby Rivera
Final Poem by Lee Sabre
Diverse by Evelyn Sislema
Final Poem by Gianna Tagliarini
Final Poem by Jayda Todd
Long Day by Michele Torres
Self Journey by Michele Torres