Santa Rosa High poetry slam raises voices … and attracts a special guest
This was before reading poems about friendships lost through words and friendships lost through death. And that was before poems were read about driving a cousin’s Corvette, about love, hate, and laughter.
Before all those heartwarming, touching, uplifting and catchy words, Will Lyon, senior English teacher at Santa Rosa High School, rocked a mic like a vandal and knocked down Vanilla Ice on an all-time funk list of uncertain origin.
Lyon, trying to relax his class before throwing a nervous session of a poetry slam for the semester finale, quizzed his class by asking the question: who is the second most hardcore white rapper around?
Eminem? A student intervened. No, he’s number 1, said Lyon.
You? another child said.
And with that, Lyon pushed Vanilla Ice, aka Robert Matthew Van Winkle, to third place on the list of hardcore white rappers that doesn’t actually exist.
But don’t say that in Lyon because he pulled out all the stops on Wednesday, taking down Vanilla Ice’s classic “Ice Ice Baby” to do a little show-and-tell about the comparison, repetition and allusion, all in the goal of getting students to think about the individual pieces that make up the body of a poem.
âIce is back with my brand new invention,â Lyon sang, reading the lyrics to the song. âSomething grips me tightly, sinks like a harpoon every day and night. “
Poetic tool? Comparison. See: Flux Like a harpoon. It doesn’t matter that Lyon has a problem with the idea of ââany harpoon flying at night. It is irrelevant.
The whole exercise was aimed at relaxing her class of young poets and warming them up to the sometimes intimidating idea of ââdelivering their own works to their peers.
So intimidating that day? The superintendent of schools in the town of Santa Rosa, Anna Trunnell, was sitting in the second row at the back of the class watching.
But she too wanted to make it easier for the students, so she jumped into the fray and read her own poem.
âThe more life affects the reality of the mind, the more I reflect on the very existence of who I am in relation to who you see me being. In a crowd, the one you don’t trust. In the spotlight, the one to be criticized, “she read.
Like all of the poets who performed in front of the class, Trunnell received a series of grateful finger snaps (the constant applause can get loud during Finals week).
“I was actually very nervous,” said Trunnell, a former high school English teacher, after leaving the class.
âI speak in front of large and small groups, and to be in front of a group of students where they see me under whatever lens they perceive as a superintendent, so that I show them that I can be vulnerable too, I can take a risk, it shows that I am a learner as much as I am a teacher.
She was not alone in her nerves.
Robyn Parianos mustered their courage and delivered a poem about broken friendships and painful slights, their voice filled with emotion.
âIt’s really difficult and takes a lot of effort and false courage,â they said. “But when it’s done and finished, I felt better.”
Gerardo Navarrete, who did not participate in the poetry slam but read his piece during the open mic session, summed up feelings of ambivalence that can seem overwhelming.
“I feel rushed, like the time is passing fast,” he began. âI feel like I’m failing in life, I feel like it’s time for a change. I have the impression that every day it is the same thing, I have the impression that I will succeed. Sometimes I feel like I’m a good person, I feel like I’m doing the right thing but the wrong thing.
For Tristan Ventura, he has done spoken poetry before, but he used other people’s words. This time, the words and ideas of “Mundane Beauty” were all hers.
âIt makes the job you are presenting, it makes the tone a lot more passionate, because you can relate to it more,â he said. ” It’s all me. These are my thoughts, they come from the heart and it is really direct.
Ventura even encouraged his classmate Braulio Juarez-Rico to go from just reciting a poem to throwing his proverbial hat in the ring during the slam. This meant that he had to be prepared to present not one poem, but three.
âAt first I was hesitant whether my three poems were good enough in case I did, but in the end it worked out well,â he said.
Juarez-Rico described himself as calm in class, and yet on Wednesday he opened up about love and adventure and even touched on infidelity with a stunning allegory using a locksmith that made a grateful audience laugh.
He got the most snaps of the day and won the slam.
âIt meant a lot,â he said. âEspecially with the words I wrote on paper, it really meant a lot to me. I’m grateful to my classmates for their support.
Parianos have felt it too. Even struggling with the problem of anger and pain in their words, they were accepted with a series of clichÃ©s.
“I never had a moment like this where I felt really inspired, and I did and it was really good.”
You can contact columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or [email protected] On Twitter @benefield.