Words are the windows to their souls

Teenagers from across the county will compete in a Poetry Jam on Wednesday.

Published April 28, 2006

"You can't do what I do. Yeah, I know I'm cute with a nasty attitude,'' said Myesha Heredia, 17, with a wiggle of her hips as she eyeballed several dozen students gathered at Middleton High School for a Poetry Jam.

"Haters don't come near me. Keep hatin' from a distance because a lady like me will leave you on the back of milk cartons - missin','' she said, ending with emphasis.

Woo-hoos rose in the media center last week where the students had finished lunch on plaid tablecloths. From the back, a girl with fuchsia braids piled on top of her head muttered admiringly: "Girl got words."

Myesha's words won first place at Middleton and a chance to compete Wednesday in the districtwide Poetry Jam sponsored by the Arts Council of Hillsborough County.

Sixteen-year-old Nicole Donnell came in second with her poem about a relationship gone sour. Javaros Martin, 17, who plays football for Middleton and won last year's Poetry Jam, took third. He wrote about the death of his love in Big Moma:

"I'm staring at her knowing that there's nothing I can do to make her move. ... Time was precious, I had more than enough. Not expecting this to happen I was doing other stuff. Now I'm finding out losing her is tough."

Modern-day poet and griot Kwabena Dinizulu presented the Poetry Jam at Middleton and about 20 other high schools across the county.

Students practiced prose in English classes all month - April is National Poetry Month - and the best poets, about 40, took part in the jam.

One student wrote about being shunned by other students. His protagonist ponders taking a gun to school but commits suicide instead.

Emotions come out through poetry, said Dinizulu, who became a poet after he fell in love with the works of Gil Scott-Heron. It's a way for students to bare their souls, he said.

"They may not be doing well in any other academic subject,'' he said, ''but this is a way they can express themselves."

- Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or 813 226-3321.