Poetry Slam

Kaunakakai students step up by bringing literary talents to the mic.

By Jennifer Smith

“You have nothing to fear from a poet, but the truth,” Mrs. Jenkins’ third grade class said, during last week Monday’s poetry slam at Kaunakakai School.

Second and third grade students from the school studied a wide range of poetry last semester with the help of kumu Alestra Menendez and `Anake Lauren Teriong from Kamehameha Schools and from their homeroom teachers Mrs. Arinoki, Mrs. Czajkowski, and Mrs. Jenkins.

The poetry slam night provided “a space where they can share what they have learned,” Menendez said. “We are always trying to push more – I was happy we had a chance to stop and watch the children enjoy their accomplishments.”

The students opened the evening with a lively Aloha song. The theme for this year’s workshops with kumu Alestra was Aloha, and each class began with a mele.

After the mele, the students took turns jumping in front of the microphone to share original poems with family and friends. From free verse poems telling where “I am from,” to beautiful Japanese haikus, most of the children memorized their poems, and several volunteered to perform additional pieces they wrote.

Parents, teachers, and community members also joined in on the open mic fun by sharing some of their favorite poems. One third grade mother, shared a poem with the audience and explained how special it was that the students were learning to do public speaking at such a young age.

“Poetry has been part of my life,” Principal Janice Espiritu said, after reading a poem from Shel Silverstein’s “A Light in the Attic.” “I love poetry.” The principal invited parents to borrow books from the school to share with their children.

As the evening concluded all of the keiki in the cafeteria were invited to join in on singing A Hui Ho.

“I’m really glad the kids enjoyed it so much,” Teriong said. “It gave them the opportunity to express who they are.”

“Anyone can do it – it just takes pen and paper,” Menendez said. “Poetry is one of the things you can use to let what is on the inside out.”


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