Young Birmingham poets put words to music for CD, performance

Standout students from the Poet's Corner Workshop will perform live as part of a new ArtPlay program, “Poems in the Key of Life.”

Burgeoning Birmingham student poets are expressing themselves in word and song for a live performance and CD, “Poems in the Key of Life,” led by local musician and spoken-word poet Sharrif Simmons.

sharrif_photo_siteThe new project, a tribute to Stevie Wonder’s Grammy-winning album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” is presented by UAB’s Alys Stephens Center’s education and outreach program, ArtPlay. Simmons is an ArtPlay teaching artist, and he conducts the Poet’s Corner Workshop, an ArtPlay class, free at several Birmingham city schools.

Simmons has selected 20 of the workshop’s standout students, in grades 5-12 at schools including Homewood High School, Lewis and Barrett elementary, W.J. Christian and other area schools, for the “Poems” project. This project is intended to further encourage, celebrate and reward workshop participants for their bravery, integrity, dedication and talents.

The students have been paired with local professional musicians to record their original poetry to music over a weekend. Then they will present their works live during a free performance and CD release party at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26, 2011, in the Alys Stephens Center Sirote Theatre, 1200 10th Ave. South.

The Poet’s Corner Workshop provides a comprehensive series of creative-writing programs. This interactive program focuses on school-age children and students in at-risk programs. Through the use of poetry and spoken word, students are given the opportunity to participate in comparative literature while learning about the history of oral tradition in comparison to contemporary forms of expression like hip hop, theater and rhythm & blues.