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Alexandria Museum of Art offers poetry coaching for area teens

Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival

The Alexandria Museum of Art is hosting workshops this month to prepare Rapides Parish high school students to compete in the Poetry Out Loud initiative that will lead up to the national finals in Washington, DC in May.

Alexandria poet Sha’Condria Sibley is a poetry slam veteran who will coach the students on their recitation. Sibley, who was on the National Poetry Slam championship team in 2012, writes about sensitive subjects. Her poem titled “To All the Little Black Girls with Big Names” put her on the map.

“One thing that was always an issue for me growing up was my name, and I’ve never heard a poem where somebody actually tackled that topic. That poem came about from my personal struggle with people mispronouncing my name and stereotyping me and thinking that I was a particular type of way because I had a ‘ghetto name,’” Sibley said.

Sibley will use the Poetry Out Loud curriculum to prepare the teens for the regional competition that will be held at the museum next month. Students will select a piece to perform from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with the participants and brainstorm about how to best and most effectively convey that piece,” Sibley said.

The museum’s Cindy Blair says Rapides is the only parish that hasn’t participated in the Poetry Out Loud contest in the past. She hopes to change that through a series of intensive coaching sessions with Sibley.

“You have to learn the poem, internalize it, and then perform it with passion. That takes some work. I think it might be a little more than a person might think,” Blair said.

The after-school workshops are held every Tuesday this month. Additional workshops are on Saturdays. The Alexandria Museum of Art is hosting an open mic poetry event for teens on Saturday, Jan. 9, alongside a career fair that will expose them to jobs in the arts.

The event will be held from 1 – 4 p.m., at the museum, 933 Second Street, Alexandria.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.