American poet Phil Kaye visits UAHS

By Caroline Favret, ’18

On Oct. 24, the auditorium was filled with both students and staff waiting in dim lighting with a single spotlight on the stage. A brief introduction was given, and the crowd fell silent as Phil Kaye walked out.

Kaye is a touring poet who has won the National College Poetry Slam award for “Pushing the Art Forward” twice. In 2015, he spoke at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, and has been featured on media outlets such as NPR.

He is a co-director of Project Voice, an organization “that uses poetry as a tool to promote empowerment, improve literacy, and encourage empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities,” as said on their website.

Kaye started with poetry at 17 years old because of its accessibility.

“I liked it because I could just start,” Kaye said in response to a student’s question about why he performs poetry.

Kaye is now a leader in the field of spoken word poetry, which is characterized by its performance aspect and word play.

IB coordinator Cynthia Ballheim is on the selection committee for the Ohio Association of IB World Schools that helped bring Kaye to UAHS. A new poet is chosen each fall to allow for new stories and styles to be shown to students and teachers.

“They talk about poetry in a way that’s not stuffy as when I went to school. I think it brings it alive,” Ballheim said. “It’s a way to engage a student in a personal exploration of who they are and carry it over to the writing process.”

Teachers and students alike can use the knowledge poets bring.  Information from workshops can be applied immediately in a classroom setting. At the assembly, Kaye offered advice for other aspiring writers.

“To me, writers’ block is an obsession for perfection,” Kaye said.

Junior Leela Waters writes spoken word poetry and the occasional limerick. At the assembly, she stood and read one of her poems titled “Catharsis.”

“It was pretty nerve racking at first, but once I got into it, I started to feel more comfortable,” Waters said.

Kaye is one of her favorite poets and has been an inspiration to her as she writes.

“To have such an amazing creator that I respect and admire listen to something I’ve written and actually like it was a surreal experience. It all still feels like a dream,” Waters said.

Waters isn’t exactly sure what she wants to do after high school, but she’s sure it’ll be related to the arts, if not poetry.

Most of all, speakers can provide a relief from the typical structured school day and foster new ideas and perspectives.“Days and experiences that are out of the box are necessary for all of us,” Ballheim said.