Students at Charles Patterson Middle School got to see first-hand the power of poetry, after a local group performed for them Tuesday afternoon.

Members of Killeen Poetry Slam and Neo Soul Poetry of Austin performed live spoken word poems for the school’s sixth-and sevent- grade students, who will be studying poetry as the first unit in their language arts curriculum for the new school year.

“We wanted them to understand that it was more than just what you think of as stereotypical poetry,” said Samirah Garcia, a sixth grade language arts teacher at Patterson. “We wanted to show them poetry was something real, interactive and engaging.”

The four performers from the two groups not only explained what spoken word, or “slam” poetry was, but also took suggestions from the students and created poems and stories on the spot.

“Poetry can be created in any moment, with any combination of words,” John Miller, a member of Killeen Poetry Slam, told the students.

It was the first time Miller and his group, recently back from a national competition, performed at a local school.

“We wanted to give them an introduction to spoken word,” Miller said. “We wanted to show them that poetry is a living, evolving art form.”

Miller also said most of the kids have been exposed to some form of spoken word poetry via music and other media. “It’s not a dead art form. They are interested in the spoken word performance, they just don’t know it yet.”

Garcia said the visit from Miller and the other members excited the school’s students, who will hold a poetry slam of their own before the unit is completed.

“They are loving it, and they are eager to incorporate the things they’ve seen and heard into their own poetry,” Garcia said. “It’s been really wonderful to see it come alive for them.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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