On April 28, in honor of National Poetry Month, over 150 students welcomed to RPHS three award-winning Detroit poets: Nandi Comer, Sonya Marie Pouncy, and Willie Williams. Asked by senior Taylor Dibble what inspires him to write, Williams responded emphatically, “Everything!” And his belief that absolutely everything is fodder for a poem was indeed demonstrated in the selected works heard on Friday; topics ranged from Mexican wrestling to the legend of la llorona, from Detroit techno to Billie Holliday, from Henrietta Lacks to the outcast family member we all love to hate.
Dibble was joined by juniors Eli Nichols and Stephanie Kennert at a luncheon following the event. There, the poets discussed the use of specialized language (like the medical jargon in the Lacks poems or the sports lexicon and Spanish words in “Sangre, Sangre, Sangre”). The poets encouraged RP’s rising literary stars to “write in the language you know” while working to “become fluent in the language of the field” you wish to explore.
English teachers who attended the event noted the three distinct poetic styles represented while students commented on the diversity of subject matter. Nichols remarked, “The stories of empathy and compassion really evoke a sense of ‘I’m not the only one here.’” For Kennert, the poems “showed how you can use writing to figure out not only how you’re feeling but to help figure out other people.” If the hour out of class must be justified, then what better lesson could one wish for our students to learn than this?