Culturally Responsive Poetry: The Lived Experience of African American Adolescent Girl Poets

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In this phenomenological study, I explore the lived experience of African American adolescent girl poets in an organized poetry group in their school. My research question unfolds, "What is the lived experience of writing poetry to uncover the power for African American adolescent girls to name who they really are?" My exploration calls upon the works of such phenomenologists as Edward Casey, John O'Donohue, Michael D. Levin and Martin Heidegger. My study is further augmented by Black feminists scholars and writers such as Patricia Hill Collins, Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston. Furthermore, Max van Manen provides a research guide pedagogically on this journey, alongside culturally responsive educators such as Gloria Ladson Billings and Jacqueline Jordan Irvine. The paths, thoughts, and meanings of phenomenology and poetry danced through, between and alongside one another.

Poetic Eight is what the African American adolescent poets of my study have named themselves. The eight poets' names are brought forth by their external identities, lived experiences and cultural collective as African American adolescent girls. And while these identities and names offer some insight into who these girl poets are, the girls, themselves, reveal who they are through their writing and voices.

Through the process of writing and weaving between concealing and revealing, individually and collectively, identities begin to unfold. As each participant begins to reveal her poetic identity (ies) and lived experiences, themes quickly emerge around grief, loss, naming as I Am, love and divinity.

Finally, I offer poetic and pedagogical insights into the lived experience of writing poetry for African American adolescent girl poets to uncover and maintain their power through naming. These insights and suggestions are concluded with my own poetic reflections. As an educator, igniting poetic voices for listeners and readers occurs through a process of unraveling and writing renderings with the intention of embodying the hope, joy, rage and love that the poets have spilled onto the pages, as they read in the group in earnestness and conviction.