To a few adult ears in the audience, Deja Dennis’ spoken-word piece “Empty Seats” came across as searing comment on high truancy rates.
“I look at the empty seats. And I fill them with dead bodies of those who attended schools turned crime scenes. Because maybe, if they had been here, they might still breathe.
The poem actually is addressed to the crowds, young or old, absent from a poetry slam organized by and for students.
“Poetry is my respirator. And these empty seats must mean people would rather see me dead.”
“We youth are trying to say something important, and not enough people are hearing it,” Dennis, a Peoria High School junior, said a few days after the competition. “But I like it when people take different things from my poems.”
Spoken-word teams from Harrison Community Learning Center and Manual Academy joined students from Peoria High last week to compete in a spoken-word competition at Peoria High.
They spit out poems of adolescent angst laced with raw tales of private pain, public conflict and sweet love. Harrison’s four-person team went bilingual with a powerful piece about stereotypes and change.