Poetry Night In Ann Arbor 2009

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CHS senior and member of the 2009 Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Team Glenna Benitez reads a new poem.

Hilary Burch

CHS senior and member of the 2009 Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Team Glenna Benitez reads a new poem.
CHS senior and member of the 2009 Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Team Glenna Benitez reads a new poem.

On Friday, December 11th, Jeff Kass, creative writing teacher at Pioneer High School and director of the Literary Arts programs at the Neutral Zone, celebrated a decade of Poetry Night in Ann Arbor.

In honor of this being the tenth Poetry Night, Kass decided to bring back Ann Arbor’s good friends and favorite writers Kevin Coval, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Lauren Whitehead, who all have an enormous investment in Ann Arbor youth.

Coval and Bonair-Agard are both instructors of the VOLUME Summer Institute along with Scott Beal, a local Ann Arbor writer who is cherished by the youth in the poetry community. Both Coval and Bonair-Agard reside in Chicago, although Bonair-Agard has lived in New York until this fall.

Kevin Coval reads from the first Red Beard Press collection 3 Hole Punch at Poetry Night in Ann Arbor.
Kevin Coval reads from the first Red Beard Press collection 3 Hole Punch at Poetry Night in Ann Arbor.

Lauren Whitehead, an alum of the University of Michigan, was first inspired by Molly Raynor, an original member of the VOLUME Youth Poetry Project. Whitehead first saw Raynor perform at Poetry Night in Ann Arbor seven years ago. That was when Whitehead fell into poetry. Whitehead now works in San Francisco at Youth Speaks, the biggest youth writing organization in the country.

Lauren Whitehead preforms a piece in Judith's creative writing class last Friday.
Lauren Whitehead preforms a piece in Judith's creative writing class last Friday.

Along with these well-known performers, Kass brings Ann Arbor youth to the stage. Many students from his creative writing classes, as well as students from Community and Huron perform at poetry slams in Ann Arbor. Kass is always ecstatic about giving youth the opportunity to share the stage with big names, and with good reason.

Kass launched the Neutral Zone’s new book printing project: Red Beard Press, which made is debut at Poetry Night. The first publication, 3 Hole Punch, is a collection of Coval, Bonair-Agard, and Whitehead’s poetry.

Roger Bonair-Agard reads from his book Tarnish and Masquerade in Judith's creative writing class on Friday, December 11.
Roger Bonair-Agard reads from his book Tarnish and Masquerade in Judith's creative writing class on Friday, December 11.

Poetry Night is a unique event, and it inspires its audience. After the final poet, Kass came to the microphone: “Go home and get out your notebook,” he said.