When Peter Khan started teaching English at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Chicago, he was terrified of teaching poetry. However, after hosting a poetry slam competition, he saw the impact that poetry could have on students.
In 1999, Khan started an after-school spoken word club that is still going, over 20 years later. The club was created to engage students and allow them to have a creative outlet.
After over 20 years, many students have come and gone, some become award-winning poets. Now, some of their words are available to read in one place. Respect The Mic is a poetry anthology that features 76 poems from current club members and alumni. The book also has a foreword by Pulitzer-prize winning poet Tyehimba Jess.
Editor and former club member Dan Sullivan told NPR, “Respect The mic’ was something we originally said in the club when people were talking in the audience, and it became a motto for the club.”
Other editors of the anthology include club founder Peter Khan, poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib, and Poet Franny Choi.
The book has five different sections, dividing the poems into thematic categories. Section titles are: ‘Notes From Here’, ‘Coming of Age’, ‘Monsters At Home’, ‘Welcomes, Farewells, And Odes’, and ‘Survival Tactics’. Topics such as racism, identity, and family dynamics are touched upon.
Terrance Hayes, National Book Award-winning poet, called the anthology “a primer for the next twenty years of great poems and poets.”
Khan hopes the book will inspire students and educators to get excited about poetry. Respect The Mic was released on February 1st, 2022.
Respect The Mic is available from Amazon and other booksellers, now!
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