(I love Lisa Nowlain’s take on Kwame Alexander’s talk, by the way. Mine feels much more inappropriately prosaic, but here it is.)
I always love hearing Kwame Alexander talk. His speeches are also poetry.
He began by saying that we need to feel that we aren’t going backwards. As Langston Hughes said, “But I don’t care, I’m still here!”
What should we do?
Remember: We are the army!
He read a poem using book titles. Librarians, fire your cannons! Books have a job to do and words plant seeds.
He told about his work with kids in Ghana. Books connect us to each other. Books don’t segregate. We do.
What should we do?
Remember. Recognize. Resist.
You have to sing somewhere. Words connect us all. You’ll feel empowered if you lift your voice, wheher people listen or not.
We’ve been here before. This is just one more river to cross. Wrap yourself in a mountain of prayer. Rise into the wonder of daybreak.
The alternative is unimaginable. Fortunately, in this room, we are nothing if not imaginative.
The rest of these notes are from answers to audience questions, so the topics flit around:
He tells kids, If you can’t travel, read a book.
Poetry helps people deal with things. It calms us, soothes us.
Kids from all over the world, all over the country, want to be engaged, want power, and want you to sign their forehead.
Poetry isn’t the only answer, but it’s an answer.
He writes for everybody. He writes for all of us. His characters are universal. We all laugh, cry, smile, and love the same.
Novels in verse work with kids because in 15 lines you get a beginning, a middle, and an end. Poetry is the opposite of intimidating, and it’s a bridge to other literature.
“Books are like amusement parks. Sometimes you have to let kids choose the rides.”
To get kids excited about poetry, model that excitement. We’ve all been a little afraid of poetry. We send them from Silverstein to Shakespeare. Give them a bridge. Teach accessible poetry. Show them how much fun it is. Let it energize and excite you.
Poetry is the answer to draw people to reading. It works everywhere.
And when Kwame recites it, it certainly does!