This week, I went to the screening of the documentary Louder than a Bomb, about a high school poetry slam and was blown away by the quality of the students’ writing. I can’t stop thinking about it, telling folks about the it, and watching the trailer over and over again. If you get a chance to see this film, take it. It's thought-provoking, unsettling and inspiring. I laughed, cried, cringed and at times, and held my breath watching these students being exactly who they are and writing about it. Listening to the team from Steinmetz perform the countdown poem about the death of child in a drive-by shooting broke my heart. At the same time, I was awed by the ability of students so young to turn tragedy into art.
I was captivated by the bold and subtle use of words and intonation to convey the experience of taking care of a younger brother with special needs, of claiming the identity of the word geek, and of believing that getting to know and understand people who are different from you can change the world. A quartet of voices, layering sounds and emotions, brilliantly conveyed various experiences and perspectives. Collectively, the young people in the film were everything that high school students can be – shy, eager, courageous, quirky, ego-centered, humble, insightful, and smart. We also had a chance to see the out-takes. These gave us a glimpse at what some of the students are doing today. Three years after the film was made in 2009, the three individual students profiled are all juniors in college - Adam is at Hampshire, Nate at Vanderbilt, and Nova at Smith.
The simple idea of providing young people an opportunity to be a part of a community of writers is powerful and often transformative. And while I don’t know for certain, I can’t help but believe that there are Writing Project teachers who are part of this program in Chicago, or similar programs in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Nashville or other cities. When I see students genuinely engaged in writing, sharing their writing with others, providing feedback and supporting each other to become better writers, I suspect that dedicated, passionate teachers have guided them. I’ve bookmarked Louder than a Bomb, and I’ll revisit the trailer when I want a visceral reminder about the power of writing. http://www.louderthanabombfilm.com/
Wishing you all a very happy holidays!