by Anna Samuels, WITS intern
“Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words needs to quiet down, close their eyes, and listen,” commanded Nathan Hale High School student Aedan Roberts during the 2011 WITS End of the Year Readings. And Wednesday and Thursday evenings, June 1st and 2nd, the crowds gathered in the Microsoft Auditorium of the downtown library were certainly listening. More than fifty grade school and high school students represented by their writers-in-residence assembled for the two nights of reading, excited to share their poetry, prose and, in two cases, comics. The pieces were all strikingly different—remembrance of childhood, an ode to a search engine, the terrors of the French Revolution, but one thing was the same—each reader wowed the audience with his or her words.
Wednesday night, proud parents and squirmy siblings were introduced to the writers of tomorrow, and most of them were less than five feet tall. Once the reading began the audience was hushed, stunned by the clever insights and lilting rhythms of the pint-size prodigies.
Weang Weang of Park Orchard Elementary blessed the audience with a celebration of his skin: “My skin is like sweet chocolate cookies/ My skin is like crows/ Flying in the sky naturally,” while Cleopatra Danger Lyon of Whittier Elementary lulled her listeners with her simple and stirring “Cherry Blossom Thread,” reading, “In my box I will put a sweet tooth/ and sweet fruit./ My box holds a thousand sour secrets,/ dusty and rusty/ from a thousand years.”
The following night another crowd gathered, this time boasting more friends and fewer family members (signaling that particularly teenage reluctance to invite parents into their world). Master of Ceremonies DJ Riz Rollins predicted a night of extreme talent and read Weang Weang’s poem from the first night as a challenge to step it up. They rose to the challenge through the poems and stories read that night which asked questions about life, love, death, lost innocence and change. Ingraham High School student Stefan Gryniewski declared his need for independence as he read, “If there was ever a time to let go, it is now./ Unclench me, allow me the right of age./ Separate from me as the continents do, slightly,” and Nzynga Hendricks lamented her loss of childhood, wishing to go “Back to the time when/ Riding on his handle bars meant you were his girl!” One of the most powerful performances came from Tova Driver of Garfield High School, whose free form poem “Mi Vida” rolled off the young artist’s tongue as she rapped about Seattle weather, depression and family.
During the post-reading receptions, students indulged in bite-size cupcakes (thanks Cupcake Royale!) and basked in the glow of celebrity. As I wandered through the crowd, I felt the sense of awe that I experience at all SAL readings when I’m brought face to face with such striking literary talent. It’s no stretch at all to assume that one of these Seattle stars will one day be gracing the stage at Benaroya, but until then, stay tuned for our annual “best of” anthology, due out September 25, 2011!