To witness the Get Lit Players (of the L.A. teen literacy project, GET LIT/Words Ignite!) reciting the lines of the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s unforgettable meditation on the making of a shirt, on the history of sweatshops, weavers and dock loaders, or the infamous Triangle Factory Fire – is to witness Poetry History being made, quickly and accurately – like a shirt!
Not only do the amazing Get Lit Players (Dario, Briauna, Jazmine and Ryan) recite “The Shirt” in its entirety by heart – they “talk back” to the poem (in an innovative technique created for the Players by Get Lit and the Magic Poetry Blimp) – or for any poet who wants to try it.
At a stanza break in “The Shirt,” Briauna steps forward and “riffs” on Pinsky’s salute to the union member who has inspected and approved his shirt – she takes off on the idea of sweatshops and Nike workers and the “young woman” who labored to make her shoes, her basketball.
The words swirl around these fearless young bards as they combine energies, bringing together the “known” poem and the new poem – to create a whole new experience in “hearing” a Great Poem. “The Shirt” becomes itself and more – a powerful lyric narrative that becomes a real life conversation!
Step back and let these four intrepid young voices transform your understanding of the body and soul of a poem – giving it wings, and new words!
Carol Muske-Dukes is poet laureate of the state of California and professor of English/Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Her eighth book of poems, TWIN CITIES, will published by Penguin in early June and a volume that she co-edited, CROSSING STATE LINES: an American Renga (featuring 54 American poets “in conversation”), has just come out from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. She has also published four novels (the most recent is CHANNELING MARK TWAIN) and two collections of essays, including MARRIED TO THE ICEPICK KILLER: a Poet in Hollywood. As poet laureate, she has established The Magical Poetry Blimp –a state-wide poetry program, which partners with GET LIT — and produced THE MAGICAL POETRY BLIMP PILOT’S GUIDE, a handbook to reading and writing and learning poetry by heart!