Slam poet José Olivarez led a workshop with CCSC students on May 20. Cambridge is familiar turf for the Chicago-based Mr. Olivarez, who taught a spoken word elective at CCSC while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. After graduating, in 2010, he joined MATCH Corps, and is now a teaching artist with Young Chicago Authors, which hosts the Louder Than a Bomb youth poetry slam festivals nationally. He is also a poet in residence at two Chicago high schools, and the coauthor, with Ben Alfaro, of a forthcoming poetry chapbook about basketball, violence, and how boys learn to be men in our society.
At CCSC Mr. Olivarez performed two of his own poems, and then read “Underneath” by Jeff Kass, which he asked students to use as a prompt in composing their own poems.
CCSC humanities teacher Seth Pearce, who along with learning specialist Ann Cheng, met Mr. Olivarez while they were students at Harvard, remarked, “Students who attended the workshop wrote some great poems about what was “underneath their heart,” the memories, people and ideas that shaped them. José coached them to use more specific details and imagery to make their writing more powerful. It was a great honor to have such a distinguished poet come through, and I think the students really enjoyed it.”
Watch video of Jose Olivarez performing one of his poems at CCSC.