Get Lit Proves Classic Poetry Isn’t Reserved For Privileged Voices
Get Lit is keeping classic poetry alive as Common Core curriculum continues to reshape the landscape of English classrooms across the country.
As schools pivot their attention to readings grounded in current events, the Los Angeles non-profit organization is preserving an art form that speaks to students’ interests when taught outside of traditional bounds.
Get Lit began as a one-woman show performed by its executive director Diane Luby Lane in 2006. The former teacher’s performance spiraled into a curriculum that she later implemented in her public school classrooms. According to LA Weekly, Lane’s lesson plans not only meet Common Core standards today, but they are also taught in nearly 100 public schools in California.
Through her program, students create spoken word responses to classic poems of their choice. After sharing their work, some advance to the organization’s Classic Slam. “Schools will say, ‘You don’t know our students, they’re not gonna like this stuff,’” Lane said. “And they did. They did! It makes me so angry because we decide, ‘Well, if you’re going to go to classes, you better bring hip-hop here because that’s what the kids like.’ We just dumb stuff down.”
While she acknowledged the significance of today’s artists like Kendrick Lamar, Lane believes students can embrace the Grammy Award-winning rapper and Walt Whitman at the same time. “It’s just that it’s all good, and it’s all vital, and we shouldn’t decide what certain kinds of people are going to like,” she continued.
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Published in October, Lane and the Get Lit Player’s Get Lit Rising: Words Ignite. Claim Your Poem. Claim Your Life amplifies the voices of 19 teen poets, who detail their experiences with the likes of depression, homelessness and incarceration.
Since its release, the group has embarked on a tour where the students continue to collide with the power of their words according to LA Weekly. “I feel like literacy and this work is a way out. It’s a way to connect with your own power,” Lane added. “And if you connect with your own power, you’re gonna be OK.”