By Carlye Archibeque
VIEWS FROM VIEW PARK 3: Crenshaw n’ Slauson
Even the most renownned poetry is subject to the opinions of others. How much more so a small chapbook collect of poems by students of a lower income charter school who have be tutored to get in touch with their lives through writing, but not necessarily educated in the ways of being a well versed poet.
Reading though this prolific collection of poems written by grade 9-12 students at the View Park Prep Charter High School reminded me of my own early writings with their raw feelings and prolific use of pronouns. That is where the similarities end, however, because these students of Mike “The Poet” Sonksen are living in a world I can only imagine. A world full of the normal teen angst but set in a culture of sudden death, constant bullying and a future set by the limits of race.
Eryca Wafer writes in her poem, TELL ME:
“Is it the color of my hair?
Is it the color of my skin?
Is it the shackles on my ankles?
Or the shackles on my hands?
See, I can change the color of my hair
The style of my clothes, but I can not change my skin tone.”
Such obvious observations become poetry in the hands of someone who lives the words she writes everyday.
Sonksen has given his students the tools of form and function when writing poems. A group of persona poems marks the physical center of the collection. EDWARD GREY, by poet Joseph Fiddmont lets the reader know that one is never to young to be observant of the world around them:
“Hi I’m 25 and my name is Edward Grey.
Every day I wake up hating everything.
See I’m a common figure.”
But perhaps it’s poet Ebony McCaskill that captures the real reason these new poets and the cultivation of their talents is so important:
“I am different, yeah I know.
But my creativity stays in captivity, as your longevity thrives by negativity.
Continue to throw me against the wall, your raggedy Ann doll.
Treat me like a pariah,
‘Cause like the messiah I have a burden to save you all.”
This collection, while it is more practice than perfection, is at once a historical document for those who are willing to read it and a life vest for the students who have found a venue for their anger, confusion and longing.