Bryan Station High School student Darionna Logan reading at the October Teen Howl installment. The author has been writing poetry since the eighth grade. PHOTO BY EMILY MOSELEY
The audience at the Morris Bookshop is giddy with excitement. Almost 80 teens perch on chairs, laughing with old friends and greeting newcomers. Silence falls over the crowd as the first poet walks to the stage, ready to kick off another night at the Teen Howl Poetry Series.
The Teen Howl Poetry Series is a live poetry group for teens that meets the first Thursday of every month at the Morris Bookshop in Chevy Chase. The typical format begins with an open mic, followed by a featured poet and then a musical act. Anyone under the age of 21 is welcome (and encouraged) to read an original piece of work.
The program was created by Elizabeth Beck and Jay McCoy to give youth in central Kentucky a chance to take part in a “real” poetry series. In November, Teen Howl will celebrate its one year anniversary.
“This is our community service,” Beck said. “We do this because we care about the kids and want to provide an opportunity to experience poetry in a live setting. It feels like a classroom.”
Beck is familiar with classrooms. With 15 years teaching experience both in Cincinnati and Lexington, Beck has always tried to pique student interest in poetry.
“A lot of kids have the preconception that poetry is about rhyming or poetry is only about love or poetry is boring,” she said. To dispel these myths, Beck taught slam poetry, a form of live poetry. “I used slam poetry as a treat, like candy.”
Four years ago, Beck resigned from teaching to explore her love for poetry. She sought out a master class taught by local author Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, discovered the Holler Poet Series – a local poetry open mic for adults – and joined the Lexington writing group Poezia. Her chapbook, “Interiors,” was accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press, due to be released in 2013.
Although Beck enjoyed the passion for poetry, she missed “teaching, being with the kids.” She thought of the idea for Teen Howl while attending the Gypsy Poetry Slam in Lexington, when teens from Bryan Station high school performed at an open mic. She realized that there were few mic opportunities for teens and saw a way to give back to her community.
Beck approached McCoy, a Lexington poet and fellow member of the Poezia group, with the idea. McCoy was enthusiastic and agreed to be the co-founder of the teen series.