Teens With Things to Say

If you ask the teenagers in Nicole Brinza’s Language Arts class at Edison High School in Minneapolis how they feel about life, they will actually tell you. And you’ll hear a lot more than, “Uh, ok.”

That’s no surprise to COMPAS poet and hip hop artist, Kristoff Krane (aka Christopher Keller) who spent three weeks teaching Edison students the art of Spoken Word. As happens in classrooms across Minnesota when students try their hand at Spoken Word, they tapped into their own experiences to create and perform impressive free verse poems.

Spoken Word is a rising performance art. It’s also one of the oldest and most global. Its tradition of social and political communication makes it unique in its educational and personal value. And middle and high school students are hooked.




Is not the walls encasing me
the sharp corners closing me in
not the doorways, enticing an exit
not the windows, stolen glimpses to other realms.
not the floors showing me what the lowest of lows looks like
nor the ceiling prompting my limits home

home is the look in your eyes when you smile at me
it’s the silence before you kiss me
it’s your warmth when the world outside is cold
it’s the way only you make me smile
looking down in eminent embarrassment
it’s you. 

Mary B., Grade 9
Edison High School, Minneapolis

The bonus with learning spoken word through COMPAS? Teens learn directly from award-winning artists. Artists like Desdamona, Guante, Frank Sentwali, Kristoff Krane, and SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE, who many teens have watched perform on stage.

Taking inspiration from their professional mentors, the students tap into their creative talents and learn to express complex ideas in compelling ways. The stunning results often surprise the teens. As Carmen Nava, a student in Ms Brinza’s class shared, “I learned that everyone has a different view on the world. We all experience similar things but get different outcomes.”

In a few weeks COMPAS will release its 36th Anthology of Student Writing to showcase creative young Minnesota authors, including Mary B. from Edison.  Below is a video of two students from Rochester performing their spoken word piece which was featured in last year’s Anthology. To hear more students read and perform their writing, you can join us at this year’s Anthology Celebration.