HOUSTON – There's a kind of street poetry that's making the rounds at Houston ISD campuses, even in juvenile detention centers.
It's helping kids tell their stories and maybe even make those life stories better.
It's not exactly Shakespeare, which is exactly why these Sharpstown High School students like it. Student Torrance Hunter recites his work to the class, chanting, “Makes me Trayvon Martin and paints me every black male. I am 50 shades of black.”
It's a way for the teens to tell their own stories. Melanie Ullauri reads her poem, saying “I see my reflection. I may be the same person but still I miss me.”
“I see my reflection. I may be the same person but still I miss me.”
That journey of self-discovery is one Houston native Marlon LIzama knows too well. He was failing English as a teen. Now he's the artist in residence at St. Paul's and the poetry teacher for several HISD campuses
“I have seven schools under me,” he said. “At my lockdown facility I see 30 students.”
To my untrained ear it sounds like rap.
“It stands for rhythm assist poetry,” one student explained. “Poetry is a lot. It’s more apprehensible than rap. You can mess with a lot more abstract concepts than rap ever could due to that fact that poetry doesn’t have that. I don’t want to call it shackle that filter of rhyme.”
Poetry doesn't have to rhyme. Listeners show appreciation by snapping. From this, Marlon back doors the students to more traditional poets like Shakespeare.
“When you start to study with the three quadrangle heroic couplet, you see the passion they put behind every line cause every line means three or four different things," student Donald Val said.
Their voices are raw, street smart. Marlon says being able to speak honestly, even lyrically is the first step to understanding oneself...and then others.
It was for him.