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Local poet captivates audience with poetry and personal stories

Finger+snaps--+Manchester-based+poet+Ryan+Parker+spoke+to+students+about+the+importance+of+using+spoken+poetry+in+the+classroom+as+a+means+for+creative+expression.+Parker+kicked+off+the+first+annual+LIT+fest+that+began+November+1+in+the+library+and+will+continue+through+November+3.
Finger snaps-- Manchester-based poet Ryan Parker spoke to students about the importance of using spoken poetry in the classroom as a means for creative expression. Parker kicked off the first annual LIT fest that began November 1 in the library and will continue through November 3.

Finger snaps-- Manchester-based poet Ryan Parker spoke to students about the importance of using spoken poetry in the classroom as a means for creative expression. Parker kicked off the first annual LIT fest that began November 1 in the library and will continue through November 3.

MJ Martinez

MJ Martinez

Finger snaps-- Manchester-based poet Ryan Parker spoke to students about the importance of using spoken poetry in the classroom as a means for creative expression. Parker kicked off the first annual LIT fest that began November 1 in the library and will continue through November 3.

Patrick Arnold, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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Drawing in students, staff and faculty, poet Ryan Parker spoke about the importance of poetry and its various forms by sharing his work and personal anecdotes. Parker was invited as a guest to kick off the first annual LIT Fest that began yesterday, November 1, in the library.

Parker is a Manchester-based poet, hip hop artist and teacher, teaching eighth-grade reading enrichment one half of the day and “teaching teachers how to teach” the other. He also works on music and writes poetry. Parker attests to having started to love writing since third grade when he wrote a short story. Since then, it has become an important facet of his life.

“I just don’t [write] because I want to; I have to write,” Parker said.

A skeptical, argumentative student, Parker challenged one of his teachers on what constitutes a poet, feeling as though hip hop music carried the same principles of creativity and expression as formal poetry. Giving him an opportunity to speak, Parker compared William Shakespeare to rapper Mos Def. After presenting his case, his teacher commended Parker on proving his point.

“[Hip hop artists] told stories in their songs, and they did it in the amount of three minutes which is like the length of your average slam poem. So, I thought it was so fascinating how you could capture so much in that little space of time and do it in ways where you are using imagery or extending a metaphor or you’re working in rhyme scheme. Hip hop really pushed me into being a poet,” Parker said.

This story in particular is one that classroom teachers who listened to him speak learned from.

Parker shared an anecdote of challenging his English teacher in high school to see that the poets he learned from outside of school–the hip hop artists he loved–were just as ‘dope,’ just as valid, as the poets he learned from in school. I hope that classroom teachers also allow students to engage with their own understanding of what makes a poet and what qualifies as poetry by applying what they learn in class to their experiences outside of class,” English Department Leader Amy Miller said.

Parker was the first in his family to finish college, joking that he believes his mother whispered her aspirations of him finishing school in his ear since infancy. Earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Eastern Connecticut State University and a master’s degree in teaching from Sacred Heart University, Parker uses his knowledge to encourage others to express themselves through poetry. In order to carry out this message, he cofounded the Open Mic Movement, a movement focused on making sure there are venues and opportunities available in schools and the community or open mic nights so that aspiring artists have the opportunity to make their art public.

“The mission is to really build collaboration among students and to empower youth on multiple levels,” Parker said on his website.

Jim Carter
Spit me a rhyme– Manchester-based poet Ryan Parker poses with Farmington students, faculty and staff after his poetry slam held on November 1 in the library. Parker is not only a poet, but a teacher and hip hop artist.

According to Parker, students are empowered in this Open Mic Movement through their ability to express themselves in a “supportive forum,” technical trade skills and through academics. Within the school setting, teachers act as “guides on the side” as students explore their creative talents. Along with sharing his personal beliefs on the power of poetry, he argued for the importance of allowing all students the opportunity to authentically and safely express themselves in the classroom.

[Parker’s] stress on our space being a shared space and a safe space resonated with me and reminded the power of our youth when they feel included, accepted and part of a bigger community,” literacy specialist Meghan Jones said.

After school, Parker held an open mic for interested students. Following the performances, Parker continued to offer more writing advice. Students who participated in both his presentations during the day or his after school session found his recommendations to be useful for classroom writing as well as outside of school.

“I really enjoyed listening to Ryan Parker talk as part of my Writer’s Workshop class. I was truly impressed by his eloquence with words in the moment and the rhythm of his poetry, which can be very difficult to master for anyone. I also was inspired by his ability to connect to a wide and varied audience with many different perspectives, and I am looking forward to including some of the strategies I saw him use as a public speaker in my own life,” senior Chris DiLullo said.

Currently, Parker is working on an album and a few books: one entitled Memoirs, another that will serve as a guide for teachers to incorporate the principles of the Open Mic Movement into the classroom, and the last will be a collection of poetry. You can follow Ryan Parker at @peaceloveparker on Instagram or check out his website: www.ryanparkerthepoet.com.

 

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Local poet captivates audience with poetry and personal stories