Written by Laila Shereen
Facilitators Jessica, Laila, Kristen, Jeff set up the room in a circle. There were about 30 participants, including Brendan. Things started five minutes late, so we chatted and introduced ourselves while people were filing in. Jessica asked Brendan to tell them about how he linked up with the GPI. He did. Good stuff.
Jess gave a brief intro, asking participants, “what is guerrilla poetry?” Somebody volunteered and talked rather well about the word “guerrilla.” I talked more about lyrical ambushes (concept, gateway for activism in DC, etc.), gave them the outline of the workshop, then somehow segued to collaboration and the RWU, and I introduced Kristen and the drumming section began.
She did an awesome, kick-ass, quickie, comprehensive (for 20 minutes), drum workshop. I can’t remember the beat that she taught them, but I want to learn it—it seemed more fun than “cuckoo cuckoo.” I liked how she incorporated examples from us to demonstrate drumming with poets. We used a short group piece—War on Terror and one person’s short verse—and people seemed to dig it. There was a big drum jam; everyone did very well. Laila and Jess boogied and yelped “aii! aii! aii!”
Drumming ended. Jess said a few words as a segue from drumming to poetry about how like Kristen said the drums enhance the words and their message, a coordinated rhythmic group piece can be a powerful method of getting a message across. Laila at the same time started passing out books. Then Laila started the poetry workshop.
First, Laila told them to get into groups of three. They did that pretty easily and began introducing themselves. Each group quickly chose a poem. Laila said that since it was a short workshop (only thirty min.), we couldn’t go into too much detail about imagery metaphor and rhyme. They quickly chose a poem. She explained more about how they were going to do collaborative pieces in their groups. She talked about different kinds of collaborative pieces (we had already done War on Terror), so she explained the hook concept. Then she said let’s write a poem, asked where do we start, and said we start with inspiration—think about what inspires you. Laila asked participants to stop, put everything down, and listen while the some volunteer to read the poem they chose (intention with asking them to choose poems was to have them read aloud).
Three people read poems—interesting selections, not necessarily political, but great examples like a two-line poem, then the one about Television (“pay attention to me, look at me…”), and then another one that I can’t remember. Then Laila asked them to sit and brainstorm—just write words, in groups or individually, free-flowing for about 5-10 minutes. Laila also briefly talked about chants (as more examples of words and rhythms) and gave out chant sheets. One person read a chant, which was great. Then Laila reminded them that the group piece can look different ways, using hooks, alternating lines, etc. And then they gave them 15 minutes to write (minimum should be 15 min to write). Laila collected books after they were done writing and while Jess talked.
Jess said a few words about how we do it on Dupont Circle. We had only 15 minutes left in the whole workshop at this point, and so we were going to touch on sister groups like the Richmond crew, but we were running out of time and since Preston was not there we just scrapped it (also, Brendan seemed to have plugged in the “how I got involved part”. Words about all the various elements of the circle, from getting a permit to having people of all ages show up, were scattered. Tried to be clear about it, but you really need a rehearsed 5 minutes to do it, and at that point, I just wanted us to start sharing those poems. So we did a 10-12 minute open mic. Jeff ran the stack.
Everybody was pretty open to sharing their group pieces, and they were varied in style and subject. One of the groups copied theirs for us by hand on the spot and gave it to us. (See below.) It should go on our website as a feature somehow, because I said that we could do that. We got almost everyone to sign up on the contact sheet, and we will blast them with a thank you, here’s-how-you-can-find-out-more email (see attendance list for email addreses). We flyered them as they left for their next session.
Peep the poem, "100 Best Friends " by Yacob/Ben Sawyer/Ben Weiss!