Neevel '95, a teacher, volunteer, and orgainzer, received a $25,000 grant that will fund a series of slam poetry workshops for New York City youth. Slam poetry, she says, is a nationwide phenomena that "brings sport to poetry."
She explains: Slam poetry is the competitive are of performance poetry. Originally created to encourage public interest in poetry readings, slam poetry has evolved into an art form that emphasizes audience participation and poetic excellence. Judges selected at random from the audience score the poet's performance, and the poet with the highest score wins the slam. It has in essence become a national grassroots movement that focuses on social justice and personal truths.
For the poets, slam can engender emotional, spiritual, and intellectual freedom. Neevel hopes to bring a similar transformation to the lives of troubled teenagers in New York City. The sites she has chosen for the workshops are: The Island Academy and Rosewood High School, both located within the correctional facilities on Rikers Island; the Hetrick-Martin Institute for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth; and the Familly Academcy School in Harlem.
Twelve accomplished poets will serve as workshop instructors, offering their literary skill, wisdom, and mentoring to the young people. Each workshop will culminate in the publication of a class "chapbook," or collection of poetry. The students will also get a chance to perform their poetry at poetry slams.
"The goal is to create a community through storytelling. Many young people have to deal with very adult issues, and tell poignant stories about violence and loss. Studies show that it is therapeutic for individuals who bave been traumatized to write about their experiences," Neevel continues, "Being honest about your emotions can de-escalate the violence... I hope that they come away with a greater sense of community and self-worth."