The Heritage Center kicks-off its Visiting Poet Series

posted November 05, 2015 

The Heritage Center kicks-off its Visiting Poet Series

The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School kicked off its first-ever Visiting Poet Series. The new series includes public performances and workshops with students from area schools. The Heritage Center welcomed Suheir Hammad as the first visiting poet of this series. Suheir is a Tony-award winning poet, activist and an alumna of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. 

Suheir, who led three days of workshops and community events, talked to students about new ways of viewing and contextualizing their poetry. She also treated the public to a stunning spoken word performance during which she invited Tȟéča Wówapi Káǧa Okȟólakičhiye (TWKO) poetry students to share the stage with her. 

Students, like high school junior Araceli Spotted Thunder, gained insights into the artistic process of writing poems. “Both workshops opened up my ability to process the emotions and feelings I experience, as well getting me to think about how I can help my community fully acknowledge situations that get overlooked and how to possibly approach them.”

Suheir’s work with the students also boosted the young poet's self-esteem. Araceli said of the events, “It means a lot that someone with so much experience and recognition [came to] work with young poets like us. This experience has definitely given me more motivation to continue writing and to continue to work on achieving my dreams.”

The Visiting Poet Series supports the TWKO afterschool program for young writers. Mark Tilsen, Red Cloud High School English teacher and TWKO co-leader, explains, “We create a safe space open to all students to have their voices heard. We believe in the power of poetry to sharpen our students critical thinking and writing skills, but more than that we are aiding in the next generation of young leaders.”

The Poet Series brings a new dimension to the artistic life of the Pine Ridge Reservation through student workshops, radio interviews, and public performances. Museum Educator and co-leader of TWKO, Audrey Jacobs says that The Heritage Center hopes to spark greater conversation about poetry and the arts in the community. “We hope through this program, more people will engage with poetry and other artistic mediums, that the public performances and radio interviews will inspire people to write, draw, and make more.” 

The Heritage Center is currently scheduling the next visiting poet for a winter workshop and performance week. The time and location of the next free public performance will be announced soon and all are encouraged to attend. 


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Photos © 2015 Red Cloud Indian School, Inc.