Poetry Saves Lives!!!

Poetry Saves Lives???


“quiet your voices sometimes

so you can better hear theirs

do this

and I guarantee

our young people

they will

ROCK YOU!!”   Excerpt from “Simon Says” by Poet Theresa Davis


One by one, the youth, ages 14 – 18, took the mic and ROCKED IT at the 2013 Teen Slam Competition in Atlanta! 


Poet Corey Maddox shared a poem about a young boy being molested and having the courage to tell.  Poet Nubia Livermore vulnerably mourned the loss of a first love who died suddenly, and Poet Kaelin Matthews, winner of the 2012 Teen Slam Competition, delivered a heart crushing love poem that included the consequence of abortion and “no choice” for dads.


The content of the program was reflective of headlines in our daily news:  a son kills a father, a minister preys upon the innocent youth of his congregation, a child is mercilessly bullied to the point of considering suicide.  And yes, the list continued…


What was most striking to me was the courage of these young people. Their words were not just enraged and indignant, but compassion poured through them.  This was most obvious in their consistent camaraderie and support of one another. 


Poetry brought them together as a powerful tribe.  Poetry was the catalyst for their healing and growth.  Poetry was the safe place for them to process and share their fears, their rage, their loss and loves.  Poetry is their hope amidst the mayhem all around them.


I am reminded of that disco song with the chorus, “Last night a DJ saved my life!” (Was that the disco era?)  Perhaps it is poetry saving their lives. 


While we are marching, demonstrating, petitioning, legislating, debating and mourning over the lives of our young people, we must also make sure that we are LISTENING TO AND HEARING them.  Perhaps the teen next door, the shy youth at church, the rough neck on the corner has no mic, no poem, no slam, no positive direction or connection. 


Remember as a teen when the last person you wanted to talk to was your own parents?


I do. I also remember a “cooler,” younger, or outside person saying the same thing to me that Mom and Dad had said, and I drank every word.  It made me understand my parents a bit better too.  It kept me out of trouble and maybe saved my life.


The youth are speaking, screaming, singing?  Are we listening?  Are we saving their lives?




As always,

Be joyful,

Be creative,

Be inspired,




P.S.  Curious about the excerpt at the beginning of this entry?  Check the full poem below by Author/Poet/Educator, Theresa Davis as the creative feature in this newsletter.  Theresa delivered this poem at the slam mentioned above.  Thanks for this, Theresa! 


I have also attached a YouTube link to young poet, Jared Green at the 2013 Urban Word Teen Slam Competition.  You gotta’ see this!!!


Simon Says

don't you remember that time in your life

when you were all arms and awkward intentions

aggression wrapped in a barbed-wire heart

when the closest you wanted to be to other people

was way the hell over there


when you were minx and sass


borderline juvenile delinquent

when the closest you wanted to be to other people

was way the heck over there

your body turned battlefield

bones aching tonal war of vocal cords


when you didn't know where you fit

but you want to so badly

you buried whatever you thought

could be held against you

in the backyard next to GI Joe and Barbie


it is here

that I need you remember who you used to be

so you can fully appreciate what happens next


for the sixth grade science teacher

who after a female in his class asked to be excused twice

during his lesson

felt it was appropriate to announce to her classmates

that it must be her time of the month


did you know


before that moment

science was her favorite subject

she was going to cure cancer

return renegade memories to Alzheimer patients

she can't stand science now

and what I think she means

is that she can't stand you

but the cause and effect of your forked tongue

has left her casualty 




for the seventh grade English teacher

who in her infinite wisdom

saw fit to suspend a thirteen year old boy

for three days

because the wind blew at the wrong time

and things became erect


now she doesn’t understand why he won’t talk to her

why he is so cautious a in her classroom turned minefield


he is silent

because that is the one thing he can control

and since you seemed determined to punishing him

for the things he can't

why would he give you more ammunition

he cautious because you have turned enemy camp


and now you wants to scream zero tolerance

like that’s

synonymous to hijack your own common sense


I have zero tolerance policy in my classroom

talk during one of my tests

and watch me hand grenade launch your efforts

into the nears spherical filing receptacle

but in 2009, when Simon stood erect

slams a pencil on his desk

in the middle of my math test and says


Ms. Theresa, I’m just saying,

if Freddie Mercury were alive today

we would not be at war with Iraq!


I think three things simultaneously

first I think he knows who Freddie Mercury is

second I think his parents are awesome

because he know who Freddie Mercury is

third I think he could be right

who am I to punish him for his insight


when teaching children

we have to remember

that we were once one of them

and shaming them about

the bodies they are trying to invade

the voices they are struggling to own


will not win us their trust

it will only render us untrustworthy


so, educators


choose your battles

quiet your voices sometimes

so you can better hear theirs

do this

and I guarantee

our young people

they will



@ 2013, Theresa Davis

Author/Poet/ Educator





Jared Green at the 2013 Urban Word Teen Slam Competition!!!


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