Recent UNC graduate and performer Kane Smego said they search for workshop plans that compliment the students’ curriculum.
In one workshop, the students were encouraged to tell the story of a civil rights activist from the point of view of an inanimate object, like a stool at a sit-in.
“If you can get someone at 15, 16 or 17 to be dedicated to their community and dedicated to social justice, then we’re coming a long way in the right direction,” McInerney said.
The group writes about a range of topics and covers a spectrum of human emotions. McInerney said his poems are mostly political in nature due to his upbringing — his mother worked for a political documentary filmmaker — and interest in politics as a peace, war and defense major.
But his three-minute ode to his large and clumsy feet adds comic relief and depth to his repertoire.
“Poetry is a reflection of you as a person,” McInerney said. “If all my poems were super serious and super political, that wouldn’t be accurate.”
Smego finds his inspiration in stories that convey a flaw in society. His poem, “Second Amendment to the Raven,” condemns a society where guns can be bought at Wal-Mart and arming oneself comes at the expense of a child’s safety.
“Spoken word is about taking what you’re given and figuring out why,” McInerney said.
Despite its deep roots, spoken-word poetry is not accepted in many academic circles because of its perceived ties to hip-hop culture, said McInerney and Smego.
“It’s the tarnished art form,” Smego said.
McInerney hopes that their work will change people’s perspectives.
“Poetry, regardless of form or measure, written or spoken, is about the human experience, McInerney said.
“And everyone has a human experience.”
The group holds monthly slam competitions and open microphone nights to find new poetic voices.
Tonight’s open mic poetry slam at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books will also focus on Smego’s work.
At each of the poetry slams, the winner is invited to compete in a final slam, held in May each year.
Six of the highest-scoring poets between the ages of 13 and 19 are chosen from the slam in May to join the Sacrificial Poets Youth Team.
Smego, McInerney and three local poets lead the team to bigger competitions. This year’s team will compete in the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco during the summer.
George “G” Yamazawa, a former member of Sacrificial Poets’ youth team, performed at the Brave New Voices festival last summer and was invited to perform at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Yamazawa is now the youth outreach coordinator for the group. He said poetry gave him a new identity.
“I was always looking for something,” Yamazawa said. “I found it in poetry.”
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