Writing from kids' hearts

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December 17, 2006|By Nanine Hartzenbusch | Nanine Hartzenbusch,Sun Staff

When slam poet Gayle Danley recently clutched her microphone, introducing herself to 163 eighth-graders at Folly Quarter Middle School in Howard County, I thought back to the time I first met her a few years ago, when I photographed her teaching a workshop to fourth-graders in Columbia.

Slam poetry is gaining popularity as a form of self-expression among young people, who are encouraged to quickly write poems from the heart and their own life experiences and then deliver them to an audience of their peers.

She was a captivating force then, and certainly was now, as she gave the students a slam poetry performance of her own to inspire them.

Her laughing eyes and strong voice guide the children to write verse from the heart. She gently prods the children during her workshops, calling the girls gorgeous and the boys handsome as she gives them her insights, bringing on shy smiles.

Danley, who grew up in Atlanta and lives in Baltimore, is a published poet and a slam poetry performer and spends much of her time teaching workshops, coaxing words out of children, with phrases like "amp up the passion," or "open your heart to each other."

My aim at the Folly Quarter workshop was to capture Gayle's wonderfully inspirational performance, as she worked to motivate the kids and use the resulting photos to produce a multimedia project for The Sun's website.

To view Nanine Hartzenbusch's multimedia story on Gayle Danley, go to baltimoresun.com/slampoetry.

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