So, the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer because, really, I'm going to talk about poetry. But, don't click off the page just yet--you'll see, it all relates to the next generation and the future generations after that.
I've been to a lot of poetry readings/open mic nights over the years--at many different venues, with a variety of talent levels. Last Friday I attended a reading at the Toledo Museum of Art, hosted by the Village Voice, that will stay with me for a long time. This was one of the most welcoming readings I've ever been to, and the first word that came to mind for how to describe the poetry of the evening was uplifting. There was a lot of positive energy in the room, much of it coming from the captive audience of, perhaps, 200 people.
In a time when writing seems to be approaching something close to a lost art in some educational institutions and grammar and punctuation errors abound in public and so-called professional businesses, it was heartening to see young girls (around the ages of 6,7, 8, or 9) taking their places in front of a microphone and reciting poetry that they had written by themselves. It was good poetry, too! Even more encouraging was that one of the hosts of the event gave out little notebooks for the young participants, so that they can continue writing. This is the future, I thought to myself at the time. These are the kids who are going to make a difference in the world. These are kids I have respect for. The host was obviously in agreement, as he had earlier recited a wonderful piece he wrote about how children are growing up too fast--skipping their childhood, emulating the dress and moves of celebrities, and finding nothing but trouble down that road.
What his poem didn't say is how society not only condones this behavior but encourages it. An enlightening book I read a few years ago, Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes by Sharon Lam, Ed.D., and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., laid this out clearly. I have a feeling--and a hope--that the young girls who read their poems last Friday are above (at least, to some extent) the trends that society tries to set for "tweens" (a word created, incidentally, by marketers; what happened to "pre-teen" or, simply, "girl"?).
I read an essay a couple of years ago called "Can Poetry Matter?" by Dana Goia, from the book of the same name. I thought of this essay as I listened to the girls reciting their poetry last Friday, as I listened to the other poets and their predominantly positive messages, as I sat there with my heart beating fast with excitement and joy and hope. I wanted to shout, "Yes! Poetry CAN matter! It DOES matter!" Because the poets who read at the museum--young and old, male and female--proved it to me. It matters to them; it matters to me. If an eight-year-old girl can get up and read a poem she wrote in front of an audience of 200 people (mostly adults), she can do "anything." She IS the future!