What does red taste like? Or green smell like?
These were questions posed by Rachel Kann, poet and UCLA teacher, whose bold appearance mirrors a mythical creature – dark hair flowing with stark bangs, delicate tattoos flanking her arms and a raspy voice with heavy undertones.
Kann is bringing her 20 years of writing and teaching experience to the Palisades Branch Library in the form of a five-week poetry workshop for teens ages 13-19. After participating in the workshop, teens have a chance to enter and compete to become the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate.
“This workshop is organized by LA Public Library and Urban Word LA and I was immediately interested in bringing this program to the Palisades when I first heard about it six months ago,” said Annie Cipolla, Young Adult Librarian at the Palisades Branch Library.
Kann teaches these workshops because, “I believe the only hope we have to build self-esteem and self-worth is through valuing your own story and we can do that through creative expression, writing and youth empowerment.”
The organization Urban World provides a platform for youth to cultivate their voice through literary expression and empower youth to be leaders in their community. Urban Word LA is hosting the second annual Youth Poet Laureate contest through the month of April and the winner will receive a book deal and will be a community leader for one year as the Youth Poet Laureate.
“Being able to articulate what you’re seeing and feeling is really important, so having the tools of expression, no matter what you’re interested in, can improve your life in many ways, from college applications to school essays,” Kann said.
Last year’s winner was Amanda Gorman of Los Angeles and her award-winning spoken word piece focused on diversity and social justice. Gorman performed her piece, titled “Neighborhood Anthem,” on June 14, 2014.
A sophomore in high school at the time, her dainty appearance is quickly emboldened the second she begins her piece. Inspired by her mother who teaches in East Los Angeles, Gorman passionately echoes themes of self-love and confidence.
“I dream for the broken dreamers, for those who have their skin color questioned…let your heartbeat be a percussion of hope,” said Gorman during her performance, which can be found online at Urban Word LA.
Spoken word is defined as poetry on page but performed for an audience, bringing the words to life in an exciting way, focusing on story-telling and expressive body movements to enhance language.
“(Teens in the Palisades) can do exactly what Amanda did. I don’t think the way you’re raised discriminates your need to express yourself, you just have to take the first courageous step and you won’t turn back,” Kann said. “Even if you only come to one workshop you will leave with a poem.”
Kann notes four important things to know about the poetry workshops: no grades, no deadlines, no rules and free snacks!
The workshop runs on Mondays through April 13 from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Except for Tuesday, March 31) at the Palisades Branch Library, 861 Alma Real Dr.
Show up for one or all of the workshops and stay for as long as you can. Workshops are free.