Poetry On Fire: Igniting Students’ Passion for Poetry and Creative Writing 2020
Distributed by epf media, 324 S. Beverly Drive, PMB 437, Beverly Hills, CA 90212; 310-839-1500
Produced by Larry Rattner and Sam Pierstorff
Directed by Jason Jaacks
Streaming, 32 mins
Date Entered: 06/30/2021Reviewed by Amanda Jo Melchor, Reference & Instruction Librarian, Texas A&M University - Kingsville
Poetry On Fire: Igniting Students’ Passion for Poetry and Creative Writing is a great supplement material for an introduction to poetry course or program. The film includes slam poets Queen D, Brandon Melendez, Jaz Sufi, Joyce Lee, and Joaquin Zihuatenejo. The first half showcases the poets performing their poems in front of a small, close-seated audience. Intimate staging emphasizes the personal and passionate nature of slam poetry, and each performance is followed by a brief talk with the author. The second half features advice to students from the poets on writing and performing slam poetry.
The program possesses many strengths, including a diverse selection of slam poets who cover a variety of topics and speak briefly about their specific poems and creative processes. The poetry topics featured could apply and speak to students from a range of different backgrounds and experiences. Unlike more formally academic presentations, the first half of the program excellently emphasizes the power of the poets’ performance and encourages the audience to see and hear how slam poetry is infused with fervor. Slam poetry is as much as performance as it is composition, and inclusion of the performances underscores this aspect. The second half of the program includes poet-provided advice. Inspiration, the writing and performing process, and how to get started as well as reading across forms and genres for creative input are discussed. First-hand commentary on the writing and performance processes can be insightful for beginning students of the form and emphasize instructor guidance.
The program doesn’t have weaknesses, so much as limitations. As a main resource, it doesn’t explain what slam poetry is, explore the genre’s history or format, or provide any real context for the form. This program would work best as a supplementary resource, not a primer on the topic, and is appropriate for an audience familiar with poetry basics and at least a cursory knowledge of what slam poetry is. Given the work’s limitations and strengths, it's most appropriate in high school or lower-level collegiate classes in a poetry course or writing program. For instructional use, the poets’ performances in the first half could be used as a tool for students to watch, listen, and reflect on the poem. Reflection could then be followed up by the author’s responses.
Regarding technical merit, the program is professional and well-constructed without being glossy. Its runtime is a good length, long enough to feature the performances and commentary without the viewer becoming bored or overwhelmed. The program’s structure is also well-organized; each of the five poem performances is followed by a brief author talk and then a longer author advice section. The film is a logical companion to the workshop Poetry On Fire Teacher’s Workshop: Developing Students’ Creative Writing Skills.
Overall, Poetry On Fire: Igniting Students’ Passion for Poetry and Creative Writing deftly emphasizes slam poetry as a written and performing art and works as a strong supplementary material for newcomers to the genre in the classroom.
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