Writing in Rhythm: Spoken Word Poetry in Urban Classrooms, Maisha T. Fisher
Fisher explains an interesting term and seemingly integral part of spoken word poetry – literocracy, defined as “literacy is an act of reciprocity; you pass on what you know, and all participants have an opportunity to cultivate their minds with the skills they bring” (p.5)
An authentic connection to students seems to be an integral part of the trust required for students to take that step into literacy and sharing their thoughts. The students interrogate Fisher when she first joins their group, making sure that she understands their interests, their lives, and with good reason – it is difficult to trust someone else with your thoughts, your writing, your effort – it’s reasonable to want to know that their intentions are good, real, worthy. This disconnect between teachers and their students might be at the heart of some of our disengaged students.
“The Power Writers redefined literacy to include mastering one’s life story and providing rich details about everyday life,” (p.68). This sounds like a great way to involve students in their own literacy, instead of simply dragging them through academic literacy – making them read and write about literature chosen by their teachers, often having little to nothing to do with the real lives of the students. Why is it so important to us to have them master other people’s life stories when we don’t focus much on their stories? Why don’t we value their stories?
I love the product of a spoken word poetry classroom as both Fisher and Grimes create in their books. I’m curious how I can create such an atmosphere and a product in my classroom – majority white suburbia with very limited racial diversity in my classes. It’s not that I think white kids can’t create this type of poetry, or even that they won’t exactly, but how to move them from writing their standard five paragraph Regents essays to writing expressive, musical, radical spoken word poetry – it’s a daunting thought.