Seventeen-year-old Aliya Schneider, a Rutland, Vermont resident says, although she was involved in theatre, sometimes she had trouble finding her own voice. “As a way to express myself, I used to write songs, but the music wasn’t all that good,” she says. So she stuck with poetry. Her theater director suggested she look into slam, or spoken word, poetry. Aliya was hooked. Particularly taken with Sarah Kay, a young slam poet who gave a TED talk on the art, Aliya found resonance in Kay’s description of spoken word poetry as a blend of theatre and writing. “It was intriguing; people could talk about whatever they wanted and be heard.”
After one of Aliya’s poems was published by the Young Writers Project she decided to write a new poem about the culture of high school, which “talked about the pressures teens face to change who they are to fit ideals,” Aliya says. “I felt empowered, performing original work. Aside from the freedom to express myself and have a voice, the connections I find with audience members really encourage me to keep performing.”
That experience was the turning point for Aliya. “I wasn’t ashamed to share my poetry, and I would jump at any opportunity to perform in talent shows, open mics, or submit my work to Young Writers Project. I loved showing people spoken word who had no exposure to it before.” Winning first place at her school’s talent show a year later, she then served as an ambassador for Young Writers Project’s “VT Writes Day,” for which she lead a writing workshop at her school.
As part of Rutland High School’s “YES Plan” she created an independent study in which she taught spoken word poetry to 3rd, 7th, and 8th grade students at Rutland Town School. “I loved engaging with the kids. Students don’t always want to share in the beginning, but by the end, they’re falling off the edges of their seats, ready to perform.”
As part of Aliya’s program, she organized “A Night of Spoken Word Poetry” at Rutland Free Library. As well as her young students, she invited other local teenagers. An open mic after the show gave audience members the chance to perform also.
And Aliya is bringing that community home to Rutland again this year. Wanting to make the poetry night an annual event since the inaugural experience last year, she has organized A Night of Spoken Poetry II, which will be held on August 22 at Rutland Free Library. Recruiting performers of different styles and ages, she says the organization has taken a lot of work, but has been fun and fulfilling too.
The day of the show, Aliya is also hosting a free workshop which will be open to everybody. Aliya encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to attend. “I hope to keep helping people find their voices,” she says.
“I love getting people together and creating communities,” says Aliya. And it appears she does it well. “I feel like I gained a lot of respect. It shows that despite your age, if you want to put something together, just do it.”
For more information: To get you started on your journey of self-discovery, visit my blog for writing prompts and tips or to find an upcoming Expressive Writing workshop in the Rutland, Vermont area.
Read my blog, follow me on Twitter, or on Facebook