By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
via the Internet
The Mercury Cafe is one of the first places I hung out when I moved here three years ago. I met a lot of people I know in Denver today through that place, mainly by seeing them at the Friday-night open mikes and Sunday open mike and slam.
One thing that struck me about the people who read there is that most of them tend to fall into two very distinct groups. There are the more established Denver poets, most of whom seem to have been reading at that place (or whatever Denver open-mike place predated it) for decades. Then there are the very young poets, who all seem to be in their early twenties or younger. You don't really find all that many people who are in between.
The slam poets tend to be from the younger crowd. Maybe it's because of this that they write about all those cliched sort of poetics -- like how bad racism is and how much your childhood sucked. And why they seem to be so, well, emphatic about it. It seems when you're at that stage in your life, and if you want to do something even faintly artistic or rebellious, chances are you're going to jump toward the most easily accessible themes or styles you can find. I think it's only later on that you really figure out your voice -- or even if you have one at all.
There are so many elements about the Denver slam scene - and slam poetry itself in general -- that I personally don't like. The cliquishness. The whole idea of proving that you are a better poet -- or better at least at performing your poems -- than anyone else. The sort of enforced bohemia that surrounds it all. Then again, I'm a good bit older than most of those in town who do slam. Maybe back when I was their age, particularly if I couldn't find anything else even remotely subversive, I would have thought it the epitome of cool, too. For now, though, all I can think is that at least they're actually writing. Maybe one day someone will come up with something so beautifully original it'll be worthwhile. Or maybe they'll figure out that it might be just the time to move on to something else.
Ready, willing and disabled:I found Julie Jargon's August 28 "See Jane Read" on the Web. My wife could tell you horror stories about Dallas County schools and her dyslexia issues. They put her in special-ed classes, and the counselor swore she wouldn't even graduate. She got back in regular classes and managed to graduate in the top quarter of her high school and college. This young lady might be interested to know that colleges have to make accommodations if you have documented disabilities -- and dyslexia is a disability.
A touch of class:I am a special-education teacher with the Denver Public Schools, and I love and appreciate my job. However, the public really has no idea what occurs with special ed. With the reauthorization of IDEA, No Child Left Behind and ADA, the public-school system has many financial barriers to cross in order to be fully functioning. IDEA was supposed to give the public-school systems close to $75 million for proper special education; however, we have neverreceived that amount of money. What Colorado actually receives is about one-third of that amount, and we must make up the rest.
What I think the public needs to look at is how much we value our children's education. If we really valued and believed in our children, then there would be proper funding and support within the schools for both struggling teachers and children! This year my school has been cut, cut, cut. Last year we had two and a half special-ed teachers; this year we have one -- yes one -- with the same amount of kids (32!). I am responsible for the individual educations of 32 children, which is much more than the average general-education teacher. Thirty-two children who learn 32 different ways, who need to be taught 32 different things within a six-hour school day. Whew! I'm tired just typing that.
I also happen to use the same reading curriculum -- Language!, by Jane Fell Greene -- in my special-education classes. Let me say with no hesitation that I have seen, on the average, two to three years of growth occur within nine months of instruction. It is amazing!
I would like to send out a challenge to every Coloradan today: Go down to 900 Grant Street, fill out a substitute-teacher application and substitute-teach in our public schools. Come for a day and see what it is truly like. Don't go to Cherry Creek, but come within the city of Denver -- go to an urban school. I work in the northeast section of Denver and love our community; however, the challenges that exist are great. Mobility, poverty, homelessness, abuse, drugs, etc. -- we've got it all.