Five poets share their art and experience in Jason Jaacks and Sam Pierstorff’s short, Poetry on Fire: Igniting Students’ Passion for Poetry and Creative Writing. The film puts five young poets in the spotlight and gives them a voice on any topic they’re passionate about.
Queen D presents An Open Letter To Road Kill. Just as we look and feel sad about an animal fallen by the side of the road, the same is the way we sit back and passively react to shootings on our streets and campuses.
Brandon Melendez writes A Letter To My Ancestors. As a mixed-race Mexican-American, Melendez comments on his life in the United States, a father who wants him to be American, and a grandmother’s disdain for his Spanglish accent.
Jaz Sufi’s A Letter to Slam Poetry comments on art and activism—”healing through art is not going through the hard work of healing.”
“…puts five young poets in the spotlight and gives them a voice…”
In Letter to Baltimore, Joyce Lee opens with the premise that Maryland hates Baltimore… especially Black Maryland.
Joaquin Zhuatanejo ends with Family Tree and his feelings when his father left him and his mother. He describes it as “no shade for a family when a father leaves.”
The structure of Poetry on Fire is pretty simple. A poet steps on stage and presents their poem. Afterward, they talk about it. The short concludes with the artists sharing their experience and love of slam poetry.
As a film critic, I have to point this out. My first exposure to slam poetry was through the fantastic and informative documentary, Don’t Be Nice! While I’m certainly no authority on poetry as art (and definitely not slam poetry), the pieces presented here feel more like a recitation of essays versus actual poems. To me, what separates poetry from recitation is rhyme, rhythm, and meter (even if it only had two of the three). Each artist has a chance to talk about their work, but honestly, I found it unnecessary because the poems are exceptional and speak for themselves.
Again, more an observation than a criticism (comments invited). Poetry or not, each poet speaks from their heart about challenging subjects and ideas that warrant discussion and reflection. If you’re not into poetry or the spoken word, Poetry on Fire is a great way to dip your toe into the art form. It moves at a good pace, and each poem is just the right length.
"…each poet speaks from their heart about challenging subjects and ideas..."