By Katie Concannon '17 May 2014
On the 22nd of April, the seats and tables of the Learning Commons were even more crowded than usual. Students filled the chairs and benches, sat cross-legged on the ground, and stood where there was any available space. Some clutched nervous hands onto typed sheets of paper and notebooks, others had come specifically for the event, and even more were caught passing by and stayed once they saw what it was all about. It was Durham Academy’s first listening lunch, presented by the school’s PREACH poetry club and generously sponsored by our librarians, Mrs.Harris and newcomer Mrs. Ortolano. The three faculty representations were Dr. Thomas, Ms. Adom, and Mr. Haynes, each of whom read works that had an impact on them and wished to share with the student body. Five students read poetry of their own as well: current PREACH president Kelly Moore, Kiran Baucom, Brooke Joynes, Breanna Byrd, and Katie Concannon. Speaking from personal experience, it is hard enough to speak in front of a large group of people, but to do it while presenting something as intimately personal and raw as your own poetry is, to put it simply, terrifying. The enthusiasm and acceptance of each one of the students and teachers who listened in during that lunch not only made it an exceptional experience for each of the poets, but also accomplished the goal of the lunch--to listen in on these wonderful voices of DA that wouldn’t necessarily be heard otherwise. In the words of Kiran Baucom, “As a new student, it can be a little daunting to try to figure out your place in the school. But when you make yourself so vulnerable like that and people accept you, it really makes you feel like you do have a place.” The listening lunch is something that we hope can become an annual tradition.
One of the lead members and 2014- 2015 president of PREACH is the boisterous, likable, and highly fashionable Breanna Byrd. She demonstrated her abilities to manipulate the written word to the school by reading aloud one of her poems during the international day assembly. For those who heard her poem, it comes as no surprise that she won her latest series of open-mics and will now be advancing on to Philadelphia to compete against 50 teams from around the nation and abroad. It was my pleasure to interview her during one of the PREACH sessions.
Were you nervous to compete in your open-mic competitions?
“I was nervous up until the point where I actually got onto stage where I could get into it and feed off the energy of the crowd. And then I was nervous at the end when I was finding out whether or not I would be advancing on to the next round. That was nerve-wracking.”
What is your favorite part about poetry?
“When you start connecting to the audience and they realize that you’re not just putting together a bunch of words that sound nice, but that it’s actually real stuff. I like making my audience hang onto every word, to take them along with me as I tell the story.”
Why do you think the listening lunch was important to have?
“I think it was important because it showcased all of the talent in our club and made us more personable and open, so it wasn’t like we were just some weird group of people who hang out in seclusion and write dark poetry. It showed that poetry can be fun, about love and guys and everything. It was also cool because it got the student body interested and exposed them to spoken word, poetry, and the difference between the two. “
How do you write your poetry?
“I’ll usually be in some random place and just kind of slew words onto the page. Lately, I’ve been writing down and getting ideas for bits and pieces of poems and just holding onto them until I can put it all together. One of my favorite poems is a mix I made of three poems that were meant to be separate but I felt just weren’t working on their own.”
Do you have any advice for people trying to write poetry?
“Everyone should write. It doesn’t have to sound like poetry at first. Working on literary devices and things sounds stupid but it can actually work at first. Mainly you just want to be true to the story and true to yourself. You have to have a reason behind your story. Not just for the audience, but for yourself. Just practice, keep writing. And come to PREACH!”