Ivan Sand Community High School art teacher Sue Davies wanted to try a different approach to teaching ninth- and 10th-grade English students about poetry. So, she enlisted the help of English teachers and came up with a creative hip-hop approach with a rap angle that even poets Emily Dickinson, Edgar Alan Poe and Robert Frost might have tapped their toes to.
For four days recently, thanks to a grant funded in part by the Central Minnesota Arts Board and appropriations from the State Legislature, Davies hosted award-winning hip hop artists Desdamona and Carnage. The duo have conducted workshops and as artists-in-residences for approximately 10,000 students in more than 200 public, private and alternative schools as well as colleges and universities. Carnage has been called one of the top five rappers in Minnesota.
Davies said the focus of the four days was for the students to create poems from their hearts. The performing duo worked with students in creating beats, using imagery and rhyme, crafting concrete poems and turning clichés into heartfelt pieces of poetry. On Friday, Feb. 3, students acted out their poetry through recitation and in at least one case an impromptu rap by senior Aaron Jorgensen.
Desdamona and Carnage are now in France, where they will perform for the “Sons d’hiver” (Sounds of Winter) Festival, as well as working with French students. For four days, though, they made a life-long impression on Ivan Sand students. And that’s a rap.