Jericho Brown & Poetry Out Loud Winners: 2019 National Book Festival

Jericho Brown & Poetry Out Loud Winners: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Amy Stolls: And welcome
to the Poetry and Prose Stage at the National Book Festival. Yay! It’s going to be a
great, long, but great day! Woo-hoo. And this
particular stage is sponsored by the National Endowment
for the Arts, and my name is Amy Stolls, and I direct the Literary
Arts Program at the Endowment. And I’d like to officially
launch our spectacular lineup of presentations
and conversations that you’ll witness
in the room today. Through the literary arts,
the National Endowment for the Arts every
year supports, in addition to this
festival, poets and writers and literary translators,
and you’ll see several of our NEA creative writing
fellows on our stage today. As well as more than 100
organizations across the country that do a whole range
of literary programming, from presses and journals
to readings and festivals and podcasts and
creative writing workshops for all ages and audiences. We also run a large
initiative called The Big Read, which supports 75,
roughly 75 One Book, One Community read
programs around the country, and Poetry Out Loud, also a
large initiative which we run in partnership with
the Poetry Foundation. But I’m going to let Lauren
Miller, who manages our side of the program, tell you
more about that in a minute. All of the hard-working members of our literary arts staff
are here today: Lauren Miller, Jessica Flynn, Mohammad
Sharif, Katie Day, and David Travis, go team. Woo-hoo! We’ll mostly be hanging
in the back of the room all day, ready to answer your questions
and hand you information about all of the programs
I just mentioned and more. Come back there, day
hi, pick up a bookmark, and if you have young children
with you, be sure to check out our programs downstairs
featuring theatrical readings by Imagination Stage,
and a reading of a soon-to-be-released
new Dr. Seuss book, by National Endowment for the
Arts Chairman Mary Anne Carter. And with that, I shall turn
the stage over to the amazing, the intrepid, the
unflappable Lauren Miller. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Lauren Miller:
Thank you, Amy. Good morning, everyone. As Amy said, I am Lauren
Miller, and I manage the Poetry Out Loud program at the
National Endowment for the Arts. On behalf of everyone at the
arts endowment, thank you all for coming out this morning. So first, I’m going to tell
you a little about the program. Then I’ll introduce our
wonderful guests on stage, and you’ll get to have
a first-hand experience of the power of poetry
being read aloud. Poetry Out Loud is the
National Arts Education Program that encourages the
great study of poetry by offering free
educational materials in a dynamic recitation contest to high schools across
the country. The program encourages high
school students to learn about classic and contemporary
poetry through memorization and public recitation. This program cycle marks the
15th anniversary of Poetry Out Loud, and we’re
so incredibly proud of its reach and growth. Started in 2005 as a partnership
between the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry
Foundation, and the 53 state and jurisdictional art agencies,
Poetry Out Loud has grown to serve more than 3.8 million
students and 60,000 teachers from 16,000 high
schools nationwide. Which means Poetry Out Loud
program is in every state, D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands,
and Puerto Rico. So how does the program work? Poetry Out Loud starts
at the classroom level, and then winners advance to
a schoolwide competition, then to a regional and/or state
contest, and then ultimately to the national finals which happens every
spring right here in D.C.. In total, Poetry Out Loud awards
annually more than $100,000 to state- and national-level
winners and their schools. We have a recently updated
and new website dedicated to the program PoetryOutLoud.org
which includes more than 1100 eligible
poems, video recitations, and a comprehensive
teacher’s guide, which includes everything
you need to know about running a Poetry Out
Loud contest at your school. And we have some physical
copies in the back of the room in our booth back there, so
please feel free to pick one up and pass along to an interested
teacher or student you may know. Okay, let’s get started by introducing our
guests to the stage. Isabella Callery is the
2019 Minnesota Poetry Out Loud state champion,
and our 2019 Poetry Out Loud national champion. Isabella is a freshman at
Beloit College in Wisconsin. She runs her own Native American
beading shop and plans to major in developmental
psychology and public health. Next up is Scottlynn Ballard. Scottlynn is the 2019 Illinois
Poetry Out Loud state champion and our second place
national finalist. She is currently a senior
at Edwardsville High School where she participates as an
Anchor and Broadcasting Club, Secretary of Poetry Club,
co-president of Podcasting Club. So impressive. I wish I could do this. As well as an active member of
the EEHS Black Student Union and National Honor Society. Outside of school, she works
as a certified nurse assistant. Finally we are extremely honored
and pleased to be joined by Poet and 2019 Poetry Out Loud
national finals judge, Jericho Brown. Jericho’s going to lead today’s
discussion with our students. Jericho’s the recipient
of several awards, including fellowships from
the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the
National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please,
won the American Book Award. His second book,
The New Testament, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book
Award and was named one of the best of the year by
Library Journal, Cold Front, and Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of the
collection The Tradition, which just came out
earlier this year. He is an associate professor, director of the Creative
Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta. So please welcome in
joining me Isabella, Scottlynn, and Jericho. [ Applause ]>>Jericho Brown: Hi, hello. Hey, good morning. So you know that was a really
great applause, and uh-huh. [Laughter] And I
imagine it was that good because they said my name last. Y’all were still
applauding like, “Oh, he’s already got
a bunch of awards. How boring.” But you know, it’s not so boring
because I’m actually interested in you giving me more awards. [Laughter] So what we’re
doing today is we’re, we’re having a good time
on the behalf of poetry, but also on the behalf of the
young people in our nation. These two young people in
particular competed with a bunch of folk all over this country. And they competed after
working very hard. Many of them have been through
this program year and year, and these two have come
to the top in 2019. So I’m going to give you
yet another opportunity, and this is what
I want you to do. When you applaud this
time, I want you to think of what you needed when
you were 17 years old. I want, I’m serious. I want you to think of
everything you needed, like some of y’all just needed
to be told to calm down. Do you know what I’m saying? [Laughter] Some of y’all
needed to be told to get up. Do y’all know what I mean? Do y’all understand
what I’m saying? I really want you to think
of everything you needed when you were 17 years old,
and then I want you to imagine that you had to be
17 years old in 2019. Now. Thank you so much for
coming to our celebration of the 2019 Poetry Out
Loud competition, yeah! [ Applause and Cheering ] So those are some
big needs over there! What’s up? Yay! [ Applause and Cheering ] Thank you. My name is Jericho Brown,
and I’m going to start by introducing to you the
2019 second place winner, who is quite amazing. I was a judge for this
particular competition this year, and when I saw her, I
remember sitting in the audience and just crying tears. And so I have huge expectations
of your emotions today. So ladies and gentlemen, without
further ado, Scottlynn Ballard. [ Applause ]>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Hello. Alright. I will be reciting
Self-Help, by Michael Ryan. What kind of delusion
are you under? The life he hid just
knocked you flat. You see the lightning
but not the thunder. What God hath joined
let no man put asunder. Did God know you’d marry a rat? What kind of delusion
are you under? His online persona simply
stunned her as it did you when you started to chat. What kind of delusion
are you under? To the victors go the plunder: you should crown them
with a baseball bat. What kind of delusion
are you under? The kind that causes
blunder after blunder. Is there any other
kind than that? You see the lightning
but not the thunder, and for one second
the world’s a wonder. Just keep it thrilling
under your hat. What kind of delusion
are you under? You see the lightning
but not the thunder. [ Applause ]>>Jericho Brown: I told you. [Laughter] And now for
our first-place winner, Isabella Callery. Let’s give Isabella
Callery a hand. [ Applause ]>>Isabella Callery: Abecedarian
Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian
Rezervation by Natalie Diaz. Angels don’t come
to the reservation. Bats, maybe, or owls,
boxy mottled things. Coyotes, too. They all mean the
same thing-death. And death eats angels, I guess, because I haven’t seen an angel
fly through this valley ever. Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though-
he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical Indian. Sure he had wings,
jailbird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops, kids grow like gourds from
women’s bellies. Like I said, no Indian
I’ve ever heard of has ever been
or seen an angel. Maybe in a Christmas
pageant or something- Nazarene church holds
one every December, organized by Pastor John’s wife. It’s no wonder Pastor John’s
son is the angel-everyone knows angels are white. Quit bothering with
angels, I say. They’re no good for Indians. Remember what happened last time
some white god came floating across the ocean? Truth is, there may be
angels, but if there are angels up there, living on clouds
or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing velvet
robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey from silver
cups, we’re better off if they stay rich and
fat and ugly and exactly where they are-in their
own distant heaven. You better hope you never
see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching
you off to Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell
they’ve mapped out for us. [ Applause ]>>Jericho Brown: I’m right
about everything so far. [Laughter] So they’re
going to, they’re going to get all mic’d up, and I
am too, and then we’re going to have a little bit
of a conversation. Is that alright with y’all? Alright. [Laughter] Oh. I think you can hear me. Can you hear me? See if they can hear you.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Can you hear me? [Laughter] I guess they can.>>Jericho Brown:
Can they hear you?>>Isabella Callery: No,
I’m not– there we go.>>Jericho Brown:
They can hear you? Can everyone hear me? Oh, wow, this is great! Okay, are y’all ready to sing? [Laughter] Okay, so I want to
ask just about those two poems. What was the process
that you went through to learn those poems? And before that, i’d like
to know how did you come about those poems? How did you come to, how did
you find those particular poems? And why did you choose to
learn and recite those poems? Can y’all tell me those, the
story of those poems for you?>>Isabella Callery: I mean
for me, I really wanted to look for a Native poet, and when I
found that poem by Natalie Diaz, it really hit home with
me in a lot of things. So I knew I wanted
to do that one. And my process of memorizing
is just taking it line by line. Memorizing is kind of easy for
me, as weird as that sounds. I like to memorize things,
but the real fun of it for me is sitting and
analyzing it line by line. What words do I want
to emphasize? Where do I want my
gestures to be? And that’s what I had
the most fun with.>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard:
Mine was not that complicated. I found Self-Help
because when I read it, it was sort of in-your-face
in the sense that it was sort of addressing the reader, well reader/poet
whatever, personally. And I kind of liked it because
it was sort of my excuse to be sassy at someone
without being sassy at someone. [Laughter] And when I found that
poem, thanks to Miss Haskins, my Honors Junior
American Lit teacher, I started to annotate that poem. Like I printed that poem
out at least three times, and every single time there were
other, so many things I wrote on the paper, like what
is this line mean to me? How can I apply that to
my own personal life? What, what does that line do for
me, and how can I emphasize it in a way that both addresses my
feelings toward the audience, and the audience
understanding them?>>Jericho Brown: That
is a great answer! So how long did it take y’all
to learn just these two poems?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard: Self-Help didn’t take me
too long because it’s only like 26 lines, so I kind of
broke it down into threes, where I memorized one
section, then I’d try to mention one section
plus another one. And then eventually all three
sections, and once I did that, it was just a matter of just
putting that emotion in there, putting that oomph into it.>>Isabella Callery: Yeah, for
me, the memorizing only took like a week, but like sitting
and analyzing it took months, I mean sitting with
it and learning it and finding new things about it. I think that’s the
main part of it.>>Jericho Brown: I’m
asking y’all these questions because y’all don’t
realize this, but everybody in the audience is jealous
because seriously, they want, I want, and they want
to be able to have, to walk around with poems. How many poems do y’all
go to competition with? How many poems do
you know by heart that you go to competition with?>>Isabella Callery: Three.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Three.>>Jericho Brown: Three poems. You know, I think, I think
I’m right about this. All of us would like to have
three poems we’re walking around with in our lives every
day, and y’all have that, so everybody’s sort of,
you know, just looking at you like, “How dare you?” right? Do you know
what I’m saying? So these, can I say
something about these poems? And maybe, maybe you can
answer them, and I’ll just get in trouble for asking. So your poem is quite
clearly about a certain kind of dreary colonialism. Do you understand
what I’m saying?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah.>>Jericho Brown: And your
poem is coming at romance at a very interesting way
and an interesting direction. And you’re seventeen, which
means you were how old when you were learning
this poem?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Sixteen, going on 17.>>Jericho Brown: Sixteen
going on, you were going on.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Yep. [Laughter]>>Jericho Brown: Whatever
you do, don’t stop. And you, and how old were you?>>Isabella Callery: I was 18.>>Jericho Brown: You were 18 when you were learning
this poem. So these, these seem to
me to be very difficult and very hard poems, just
in terms of their content. Can you talk about
your relationship to finding these poems, and
people’s reaction to you wanting to read these particular poems? What was that support like? Are people ever surprised? What is the reaction when
they hear these poems coming from your mouths when
they talk to you?>>Isabella Callery: I
think for the most part, people that know me are like,
“These are the poems for you. You did a great job”
They know me.>>Jericho Brown: And
what is that about? Is it that you’re a
completely rebellious person or?>>Isabella Callery: I guess in
part, in part it’s just like I, I like love who I
am and parts of me, and like those poems
really display that in a way that I connect to. And things that I really
connect with and talk about pretty frequently.>>Jericho Brown: What
about you, Scottlynn?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard:
For me, it’s like people that know me, and all my friends
at school would kind of expect that kind of poem from me,
because when I talk to a lot of my friends, I have this
sort of straightforward way of talking to them where it’s
like if there’s a problem, I’m going to tell them,
“There’s a problem with this. You should fix this,
because it’s not going to end well for you.” And in that poem, it’s sort
of calling out the audience in a way for any situation
that they’ve ever been in where they think that
it’s going to work out simply because of romance or
because they love them, or because of whatever
emotion’s going on. Where logically they can also
tell that’s it’s probably not going to end up the way
that they want them to. And I’m pretty sure– .>>Jericho Brown: [Laughter]
Please, tell me more. Solve my problem.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: [Laughter] I mean, like literally, any
teenage romance is like a perfect example
[laughter]. Literally, all of them.>>Jericho Brown: Anything
about romances in the ’40s? You got any answers about?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Good luck. [Laughter]>>Jericho Brown: Thank
you, thank y’all so much. So tell me, what has been the
hardest part about this journey? What’s the most difficult thing
about being in this competition and doing this kind of
work that y’all are doing?>>Isabella Callery:
[Laughter] We’re looking to kind of deflect it to each other.>>Jericho Brown:
Is it all light? Is it all easy?>>Isabella Callery: No,
but it’s a lot of fun. Like it’s, there’s a lot
of nerves that happen. It’s scary to get onstage
and talk in front of a ton of people, like six
times in a row. But it’s also, it’s so much fun. Like and I think that’s, when
I think of Poetry Out Loud, I don’t think of the hard parts.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: It was terrifying. It was terrifying because
I had never done Poetry Out Loud before this, and
I originally only did it because Miss Haskins was
offering extra credit, and I wanted the extra
credit [laughter]. So I mean, yeah. I ended up with a B anyway,
but it was very nerve-wracking because before that, I’d never
really performed in a group of people judging my
poetry, because when you’re in Poetry Club, everyone
has poems, good or bad, and no one really cares, and
when you’re doing it in Poetry Out Loud, everything
counts, and it surprised me that I even got past the school. And then after the school,
I got past regionals, and then got to state. And after state, I was
awestruck because no one at our school had never
gotten past state before. We’ve gotten to regionals,
we’ve gotten to state, but after that day in
Springfield, I was completely in new territory because no one at the school had
ever done it before, and doing the national
finals and what not, it was like just trying to
figure out what am I doing? And it was a lot of fun because
I was surrounded by people that loved poetry
just as much as I did. And I kind of took a lot
of inspiration from them because their energy and
their passion and their effort to just make that poem the
best poem it could be was just, it was awesome inspiring.>>Jericho Brown:
Aww, that’s nice. So what does Miss Haskins teach?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard: So [laughter] Miss Haskins
teaches freshmen lit and comp, honors junior American lit,
and AP English literature, which unfortunately, I
didn’t take this year.>>Jericho Brown:
You didn’t take it. Now what class were you
taking when you were trying to get the extra credit?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard: I was taking honor
junior American lit.>>Jericho Brown: And
did you say you got a B?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Yeah.>>Jericho Brown: Do you
think they can reconsider now?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Miss Haskins?>>Jericho Brown:
Where’s Miss Haskins? Miss Haskins, raise your hand.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: She’s in Illinois.>>Jericho Brown:
Oh, she’s not here? [Laughter] Look, send
her the video now! I’ll give you an A in my class.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Oh, thank you!>>Jericho Brown: Good, good. Okay, so tell me this. You have, so is Miss
Haskins your coach?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: She, I don’t think we
really ever had a coach, but she was someone I
always went to to sort of talk about it with. Because she was one of the
people that actually went to the regional, no state
competition with me, and that was very,
very meaningful to me. Because I’d never
seen a teacher come to an event like that before. So she sort of just became my
poetry confidante, kind of like? And I would sometimes come
to her, and I’m like, “Hey, I found this new
annotation, and I wanted to know what you thought
about it, like how do you, how do you think of it? And sort of bounce ideas off of.>>Jericho Brown:
What about you? Who was your point person?>>Isabella Callery: Yes,
so I love this story. I hope my teachers are watching. Scott Grave got me
into Poetry Out Loud. And he is an angel
of a human being. But this last year, I’ve
done Poetry Out Loud ever since freshman year, and
this last year, I said, “I don’t want any help. Leave me alone.” And I did it mostly on my own. I didn’t ever sit with anyone.>>Jericho Brown:
That’s great, wow. So what made you not want
any help, leave me alone?>>Isabella Callery: Because
it gets too in my head. I try to think all of the
things they’re telling me, and the things I think about
it, and the author’s words. And I just wanted it to be
like a personal relationship between me and the
author this year. I didn’t want any extra.>>Jericho Brown: I love this. I have to say, as a poet, I
love this education in poetry that the two of you have managed
to give yourselves, right? That it’s not about reading the
poem and examining it in a way where you’re like, “I’m going
to count the number of syllables and make that mean X.” Do y’all understand
what I’m saying? You’re actually reading the
poems and making decisions about how it applies to you. It’s as if the poem is
a tool for you to get to better know yourselves. And I love hearing y’all talking
about poetry in that way, because that’s what
I love about poetry. Do you know what I mean? So tell me, having done
this, what is it you feel that you found out
about yourself? Or how are you different? Are you any different a person? Or is there anything that
you feel like you learned about yourself, after
having won the competition? I know y’all are
both a little richer. When they announced
how much money, when they announced how much
third place was, I was like, I want to get up there
and like [inaudible]. [Laughter] They gave money
to the semi-finalists. I was like who? Where’s all this
money coming from? My god. I ain’t going to tell
them how much money you got. They’ll be asking you for some.>>Isabella Callery: It’s all
in my college tuition now so.>>Jericho Brown: Good! Good place for it, I think.>>Isabella Callery:
It is, it is.>>Jericho Brown: Tell, but tell
me, how have you been changed or how do you feel different? Or do you feel any
different after you read or examine a poem for that long? Or read in front of people?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Personally, I feel like it really
helped my confidence, because after you speak in front
of a couple hundred people, and God knows how many people
in front of like Livestream, it makes you feel a
little bit more comfortable in whatever presentation
you’re doing in like contemporary literature. Other than that, it also sort of helped me appreciate poetry
even more, and it’s not even so much as just making
your own poetry, also just reading poetry
other people have written. And sort of seeing how
relevant it is to your own life. Sometimes it’s just amazing
because in one of my poems, Worth, by Marilyn Nelson, it was
astonishing how relevant and how like in my face it
was when I read it, and I chose that poem at random. And so it was just like, man!>>Jericho Brown: Are you going
to read Worth for us today?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard: I’m trying to decide
whether I do Worth or Ode because both are really good.>>Jericho Brown: Okay,
are they really good? Oh, all right. Alright, what about you?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah, so
I think that my favorite thing about poetry is mostly removing
myself from it entirely. It’s from what is this
person trying to say to you? No matter who that is, and
I love reading about things that I will never
experience as being who I am, and how does this person feel? And how are they
trying to get it across, and what can I take from that? And learn to be a better
person and a better listener and a better activist and whatever else I
need to apply it to. And I think that’s what’s
so lovely about poetry, and I love reading poetry from
all different types of people because I think it’s
super interesting, and it’s a great way to
understand someone’s feelings about a really multidimensional
thing? I also agree with confidence. You’re getting up and you’re
performing so many times and sharing because this a
thing you worked on really hard. I’ve worked on it for
months, and now I have to share this thing that I
really love, and try to get you to love it too in two minutes. And I think that’s
like a really, that’s been a really
weird skill to gain.>>Jericho Brown:
Yeah, that’s amazing. So part of what you’re doing when you read a poem is
you’re learning about lives that you otherwise would
not learn about, right? And this thing about confidence,
y’all are pretty brave. It’s really amazing. You know, whenever, I can’t do, I actually cannot
do what y’all do. I read poems all the time
because I have to, they make me. [Laughter] But, I’m serious. But I always have to imagine
that nobody is there but me, and it seems like y’all
are actually imagining that you’re giving it
to all of these people. It’s so beautiful
to think about. So I want to open
this up in case anyone in the audience has
any questions. Maybe we can take a couple. In the meantime, as y’all come, I think there’s a
question microphone here, and maybe over here. As y’all come to the microphone,
if you have any questions, I’m going to ask some more
questions to give you some time to think and to move and to
gain some of the same bravery that these young people have
in being in front of people. So what do y’all do when
y’all aren’t reciting poems? Like, do y’all just really
recite poems all the time? [Laughter] Are y’all
like memorization freaks? Like y’all don’t have any fun?>>Isabella Callery:
No, I, yeah, I, well I just started
classes this last week in college, so definitely– .>>Jericho Brown: Where
do you go to school?>>Isabella Callery: I go to
college in Beloit, Wisconsin. But I guess most of the rest
of my life, I bead a lot, like Native jewelry,
and I sell that online. I have been, I was, up until
recently, the president of a youth center that
I love very dearly. I work with homelessness,
chemical dependency, and like just creating
a safe place for youth in the community. And yeah, now I’m
starting school, and I’m real excited about that.>>Jericho Brown: So wait,
you said you bead a lot?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah.>>Jericho Brown:
What do you make?>>Isabella Callery: Earrings. Like I have hair clips
in that are beaded.>>Jericho Brown:
You made those?>>Isabella Callery:
I didn’t make these, but these are lovely. [Laughter] But I make
things like these.>>Jericho Brown: I
was going to get one! You got one I can use? [Laughter]>>Isabella Callery: No,
but you can have one.>>Jericho Brown: Oh
my goodness, okay.>>Isabella Callery: Yeah, I’m only wearing gifted jewelry
right now, but I do bead a lot. I make earrings and
bracelets and necklaces and all types of stuff.>>Jericho Brown: And you
said you sell them online?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah.>>Jericho Brown: Oh,
you a business woman! So how do I buy some
beaded jewelry.>>Isabella Callery: I only
sell through Instagram right now on my page, Bella’s Beading.>>Jericho Brown:
Bella’s Beading?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah.>>Jericho Brown: Do they
have apostrophes on Instagram like Bellas, apostrophe S?>>Isabella Callery: No,
it’s just b-e-l-l-a-s.>>Jericho Brown: So do
y’all, if y’all want any– .>>Isabella Callery: There
you go, you got a plug.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Hey Isabella, if you get some sales
soon, it’s coming from me.>>Jericho Brown:
I think this is, I think this is very serious. Because Isabella just told
us that she’s in school, so what you need when
you’re in school is money. Y’all might want to
support the beading. Don’t play! Don’t act like you
don’t have Instagram. You can get it. [Laughter] What about,
what about you?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Well, I don’t bead. [ Laughter ]>>Jericho Brown: Isabella,
she would teach you!>>Isabella Callery: I would!>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: But, soon as Thanksgiving break comes
around, since I have a car, I can like drive over. So when I’m not memorizing
poems, I’m probably in school. And that’s interesting in itself
because it’s my senior year at Edwardsville High School,
and part of it is just trying to make sure that I
can walk the stage and like actually make
it through the year. And then another part of
it is also just trying to enjoy the year. And because of that, I kind of
threw myself into several clubs like Black Student Union,
our new Podcasting Club, Broadcasting Club, National
English Honor Society, and of course, Poetry Club. And that takes up
a lot of my week. I’m after school a lot. When I’m not after
school, and on the weekends when I’m supposed to be doing
my homework and sleeping, I am usually working as a
certified nurse assistant over at a nursing home. And it’s really great, and
it helped a lot with Poetry Out Loud because working with
people and sort of connecting with them, both by talking
and caring for them, helped me to sort of nurture
that emphasis and that spirit for a lot of the other
poems I had as well. And I feel like if I
didn’t have that job as a certified nursing
assistant, I probably wouldn’t have
as much heart as I did in those poems as I do.>>Jericho Brown:
Yeah, that’s something. Y’all are so inspiring. When I was in high school,
I was just taking long naps. This is really wonderful. Thank y’all so much. We have a question right here.>>Audience Member: You both
talked about the influence of teachers, but I wonder if
you had a parent or grandparent that you read poetry with
or read poetry to you? When did your love
of poetry start?>>Isabella Callery:
Yeah, I mean, I grew up with a great
love of Shel Silverstein. I think as we all did. But yeah, I read
poetry books as a kid, but I think that high school
is really where my love for poetry was kindled
and fostered. And this really helped
with that, so yeah. I started writing my own
poetry in middle school, and I think this kind
of gave me the push.>>Jericho Brown: Are
you writing poems now?>>Isabella Callery:
No, because I’m happy. [ Laughter ]>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Okay, that was good! [ Laughter ] Sorry! [Laughter] I talked
to, well I recited poems to my parents a lot,
including my dad who’s in the front row
there, so thank you.>>Jericho Brown:
What’s up, Dad? [Applause]>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: And I remember I at least remember there was like
two poems as a kid I’d read. Because I’m pretty sure
I had Shel Silverstein, I think that’s the name,
book when I was a kid that my Grandma may have, but
I also remember that somewhere in the basement, I had this poem by Langston Hughes,
A Dream Deferred. And I don’t remember
what year it was when I had that poem, but I did. And I don’t know
if we were supposed to write our own poem
based off of that model. If it, if I did, I don’t know
where it is, but that poem sort of struck a chord with me,
because when I read it, I was like, “Wow,
I actually cared about poetry when I was a kid?” And it was really great,
but as Isabella said, my love for poetry also really
developed during high school because I have a couple of
friends who were in Poetry Club. They’ve since graduated,
and those friends, another friend named Isabella, and another friend
named Devonte, they both really
inspired me to sort of do better with
all of my poems. Because it was sort of like
a competition, sort of not. But every time I heard one of
their poems, I was like, “Wow, how do I get to where
they’re at?” And so I did that, and I feel
like a lot of Poetry Out Loud in essence was sort of me trying
to be like okay, how do I prove to myself that I’m as good
as Devonte and Isabella. And then when I did that,
I’m like, what do I do now? And it’s kind of just
like at this point, I write my own poetry. I also memorize and read
some other poetry to sort of just get inspiration. And one of the best
inspiration for poetry, both when I’m writing
my own or just looking to listen is the YouTube channel
Button Poetry, where man! Every single one
of those videos, just [snaps fingers] like that. It just, it just clicks
and after some of them, I’m just like, they
really just did that.>>Jericho Brown: That’s
great, that’s great. Do you have a question, Ma’am?>>Audience Member:
I do have a question. They were just wonderful. And with Poetry Out
Loud, my question is about the “out loud” part. You talked about how
you chose these poems because they spoke to you. But the sound of these poems,
when you called Scott Graves and angel of a human
being, I thought, “No! He’s not really!” Angel has now changed for me,
and thunder, wonder, under, I mean, it’s just,
it’s fabulous! Do you do voice work? I think you short of
said you were in a choir?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Yep.>>Audience Member: Do you
work on the sound of it, because you’re excellent?>>Isabella Callery:
Yeah, I recite my poems, when I was practicing for
this, I would recite my poem in the shower, in
the mirror every day. Like I’d [inaudible] my poems
probably six times a day. Every day, at least one of them. But yeah, I think, that’s a
lot of sitting with it is, is just sitting there
and thinking, “I want to emphasize this word,
because this word is important, and it drives this point.” So when I practice it, I say
it like six different ways, and I choose which
one I like best.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: It’s like for me, I used my phone a lot
because I’m on my phone a lot. And I would often sort
of voice-record myself, and then I’d play it back. And I’m like, okay, that
word doesn’t sound right. So I’d re-record again, making
sure that sound sounds right, and then I listen to it. I’m like, okay, but now that whole stanza
doesn’t sound right, and so I’d re-record it again,
and then try and make sure that that entire
stanza sounds right, and that word sounds right. And at the end of the day
there was at least ten to 20 little recordings when
I’m not like forgetting lines.>>Isabella Callery:
I also did that, so.>>Jericho Brown: That’s great! So we have two more
questions, and then they’re, y’all are going to take us
out by reading us some poems? Can y’all do that for us? Y’all going to recite for us? So can y’all, did you have
a question as well, Dad?>>Audience Member:
Well, first I just wanted to say I think we’re
all the luckiest people in this entire building to
be in here with the poetry, because obviously,
we all love words. We love prose, we love poetry, and we get to just
saturate ourselves in this room with that. And you know also I wanted
to put it to you guys, between the first poem
you read that got to you, or the first poem that you
wrote, who are you now, and who were you then?>>Isabella Callery:
What a good question.>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard: That’s a bit poetic
in itself, right? [ Laughter ] The person I was when I wrote
poetry was a lot more teenage angst than the person I was
when I read my first poem. Because when I was
writing my poems, I was just writing how I felt. No– I didn’t care
how it sounded or if it rhymed or whatever. I was just writing. And then when I was sort
of reading the poems and finding the poems
that I, that spoke to me, in Poetry Out Loud, I
was sort of like okay, why did they put it that way? Why did they capitalize this
letter rather than that letter? Why did they break
it up this way? And it sort of made me look at
the structure of a poem more, as well as sort of have
more meaning in writing it. And so it shows a lot
when I did write my poetry and when I do write my poetry. I look more at why am I doing
it the way I’m doing it? Why am I capitalizing this word? Why am I not capitalizing
this word? And so I think the
person that I was when I first wrote
poetry is a lot different than the person I
am reading poetry. And I like the person
that reads poetry more.>>Isabella Callery: Yeah, I
think, I mean, the person I was, I mean, two months ago isn’t the
same as the person I am today, and I think we can all
say that for ourselves. But man, like years ago
is a whole different life than the life I live today. And I’ve come like a really
long and beautiful way, and I think that’s lovely. Like, I’m, and I think poetry
has played a bit part in that, having like a healthy
outlet to express yourself, even if it’s just
for you, right? The thing I will say is
write poems just for you. They don’t have to be to share. They don’t have to be good. They can just be for you and
to get your feelings out, and I think that is a really
beautiful coping mechanism, whether you choose
to share it or not.>>Jericho Brown: Can y’all
just ask your two questions one after another?>>Audience Member: Okay, so I
do Poetry Out Loud at my school, but I’ve never made it
past the school level. This is really like cool
and inspiring to see. So I was just going to ask
how do you guys determine who you’re going to
interpret your poems? Do you like watch videos
of other people doing it? Like, how did you decide how
you wanted to express it?>>Jericho Brown: What
about your question? Don’t die on us.>>Audience Member: I’m also
like a high schooler who has like done Poetry Out
Loud a few times, so it’s like really
cool to meet you guys. My question is more about
like the community reaction when you guys chose these poems. I know these poems,
especially like Isabella’s poem about like the native community. It could like resonate
with the people around you. So my question was
like did you find that when you were reciting
these poems, like were you able to share them with
your community? And like what impact
did that have?>>Jericho Brown: So any
response to those two at all?>>Isabella Callery: Yeah! I think that I performed
my poems at City Hall right after I won, and that was
like a really lovely way to share it with my community. And I think that again, my town
is predominantly white people, so it was, it was really
nice to be able to say and like share this,
this issue with people, and make them rethink
about that a little bit. And to answer your question, yes I think we all watch
other people recite our poems. My Charles Lamb poem,
nobody recited it like me, and I thought I was going to
do it wrong the other time. I was like, everyone’s so
angry when they do this poem. Am I supposed to be angry? Because I think it’s just nice! I’m like, so I was so confused. I thought I was like
totally messing it up. But no, yeah, I think it’s like
part of staying true to yourself and part of, and part of trying to see what the author
is saying.>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Same here. When I was looking up
my poems and everything, I wanted to make sure that
first I looked up videos to see if they had ever done my
poem, and see how they did it, and sort of draw
inspiration from that. And then to answer your question
of how the community reacted to it, I also recited
it at City Hall. And I think they really
liked it, especially Ode, because it very much
resonated with a lot of the fine arts people at my
town, both choir, orchestra, band, people who also do poetry. Just everyone, because
everyone’s a dreamer, everyone’s a music maker at
some point in their life, and it just, it helped.>>Jericho Brown: So
we have a minute left. Do y’all have a poem
that’s less than a minute? No?>>Scottlynn Ernestine Ballard:
I got one that’s like a minute and 30 seconds, maybe.>>Jericho Brown: Can
you recite it for us? And we’ll just pretend
about the 30 seconds?>>Scottlynn Ernestine
Ballard: Yeah, alright. Do you want me to stand up?>>Jericho Brown: Yeah, sure. Can you stand up. Did he already? He didn’t unhook you. Sit there and recite the poem. I asked him to come up. Get on over there, yeah! [ Applause ]>>Ode, by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. We are the music-makers, and
we are the dreamers of dreams. Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
and sitting by desolate streams; World-losers and
world-forsakers, on whom the pale moon
gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world
for ever, it seems. With wonderful deathless
ditties we build up the world’s great cities, And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory: One man with a dream, at
pleasure, Shall go forth and conquer a crown; And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down. We, in the ages lying In the
buried past of the earth, Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth; And o’erthrew them with
prophesying To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one
that is coming to birth. [ Applause ]>>Jericho Brown: I don’t,
you know, that, did you– can I take advantage or not? I don’t know the situation. This is my first
National Book Festival. Do y’all want to hear a poem? [ Applause ]>>Isabella Callery: This is
Perhaps the World Ends Here, by Joy Harjo who is now
the U.S. Poet Laureate, or will be in a few weeks. So snaps to her. The world begins
at a kitchen table. No matter what, we
must eat to live. The gifts of earth are brought
and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since
creation, and it will go on. We chase chickens or
dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their
knees under it. Oh, I forgot! I haven’t done this
poem in months. [Laughter] Oh, I forgot. I can’t remember it! [ Applause ]>>Jericho Brown: Thank
y’all so much for being here. Let’s give these young people
another round of applause. This is a clap for poetry. Look at that, look at that. You did that. Thank y’all so much,
beautiful work, thank you.

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