Poet shows teens how words can exude attitude


April 16, 2002|By Dana Klosner-Wehner | Dana Klosner-Wehner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GIVE IT a little Janet Jackson attitude!" Gayle Danley advised teens attending her poetry workshop this month. To Danley, a former National Poetry Slam champion, reading poetry aloud is not only about the words, it's about the attitude.

"It's your message," she told the quiet schoolchildren. "It's important, be proud."

The two-part workshop April 4 at the east Columbia library was part of a celebration of National Poetry Month and the Langston Hughes Centennial Festival. Hughes was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Danley told the youths, asking them to read some of his poetry aloud.

The children used Hughes' style as a jumping-off point to write their poems.

Samantha Samms, a seventh-grader at Owen Brown Middle School, fished in her pockets and dug out a folded piece of paper that bore her poem, "Crystal Clear." The poem described a day when Samantha would live a life in which she would not care what others thought of her, and all she would have to do is believe.

The words were beautiful, Danley assured her and the rest of the group. But memorize them, she said.

"One day, you will have your moment," Danley told the young poet. "Laura Bush will ask to hear one of your poems. You shouldn't have to dig around in your jeans when your moment comes."

Danley is a poet-in-residence at Howard County schools.

"I want kids to fall in love with the written word," she said. "Poetry is one of the only times they get to be themselves. I feel like we're losing our young people. We talk about them, but we don't talk with them."

Seventh-grade poet Jeddalyn Puzon from Owen Brown said she usually writes with sadness. "Poetry is the best way for me to express my emotions," Jeddalyn said.

"It doesn't matter what you are feeling, it's always good to put it into words," Samantha said. "It's better than talking to someone because it's just your own thoughts."

Danley inspired the budding poets with a performance of her piece, "Two Pearls."

Before she began, she drew them into the mood by requesting that they close their eyes and imagine their mothers sitting next to them.

Then she began to read her poem about her mother, who died of lung cancer. Throughout the piece, Danley laughed, cried, even broke into song - and the children joined in.

"She's a strong leader," said Lauren Davenport, a seventh-grader at Owen Brown. "She believes in herself. She makes me see life as climbing a mountain: Just keep going in life even if obstacles get in your way."

Kevin Murach, a junior at Mount Hebron High School, said Danley's way of writing poetry made sense.

"Just write down the words in any order," said Kevin, who likes to write to get his feelings out. "Then fix it later."

The library's final Hughes-related event will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday. Margaret Reid of Morgan State University will discuss "The Triumvirate of the Harlem Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Countee Cullen."

Information: 410-313-7700.

Reflections winner

Congratulations go to Oakland Mills High School junior Jenni Frederick. Her original dance composition took first place in the senior division of the Howard County Reflections program.

She competed at the state level last month (winners were announced March 22), where she won an Outstanding Interpretation Award, the first prize.

Art exhibition

The Columbia Art Center Gallery is presenting a faculty-student exhibition that runs through Thursday. The exhibit features two- and three-dimensional work, including photography, stained glass, paintings and pottery.

Exhibiting artists from our neighborhood are Winnie Coggins, Jay Taylor, Sheila Franklin and Sue Nicholson.

The gallery is at 6100 Foreland Garth Road, in Long Reach Village Center. Admission is free.

Information: 410-730-0075.

Quilt show

Faithful Circle Quilters, Chapter 10 of the National Quilting Association, will present its 14th Biennial Quilt Show Thursday, Friday and Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County.

The show will include a quilt exhibition, demonstrations, merchant mall, member boutique and a silent auction.

The club's featured quilt, "The Last Rose of Summer," will be raffled. The quilt was handmade by seven members over five months, club member Roma Knee said.

The group also makes "love quilts" that are donated to nonprofit organizations, Knee said.

A $5 donation is requested.

Information: Roma Knee, 301-593-1847, or Romaknee@ aol.com; or Jill Bartos, 301-725- 3022, or patchwheel@comcast. net.

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