■ By Drew Wilson / Contributed
A base guitar bumps a low melody while brushes dance on a snare and hipsters of all ages, some with Beatnik face-paint, mingle, sipping strong coffee and talking about art. In the center of the dark, standing-only room is a microphone, alone on a stand, under a spotlight. It’s surrounded by chairs. It looks like the setting of an underground nightclub located in the artsy part of some large city, but it’s just the Hemet High School second stage and the spoken-word art coming from The Box Under the Bed Cafe Poetry Society is rich.
The Box Under the Bed Cafe hosted its inaugural Poetry Slam Feb. 28 at Hemet High School. Named for the new literary magazine that will debut its flagship issue in May, students performed original spoken-word poems, songs and short stories that visibly moved onlookers to outbursts of whoops and raucous applause at the end of each poem. The Slam was an expose of race, religion, sexuality, politics, drugs, identity, online cyber-bullying and deeply honest personal experiences; all told through unique voices of millennials who have inventoried their brains and mustered the guts to stand under the light and expose their soul to the world with words.
“This all came about because students were asking me for a creative writing class,” said Melissa Smith, AP language and composition teacher at Hemet High School. “We read, analyze, and write a lot of arguments and research. All non-fiction. They wanted a creative outlet.”
The class is new this year and is filled with 33 juniors and seniors. All but four, who had scheduling conflicts, performed at the slam. The class is not an English class, it is a fine art class and so performances seemed natural. The students wrote these pieces over the course of the school year in the class along with chapters of novels, short stories, parts of screenplays, stage plays, and now scenes from musicals.
“These are some of the bravest and kindest kids at a school filled with extremely talented, brave and kind kids,” said Smith. “I love my job and consider it a privilege to work with these inspiring kids every day.”