Get Lit Spoken Word Poetry Inspires Teens to Find Their Voices

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Get Lit is an LA.-based initiative created by Diane Luby Lane that uses poetry, reading, writing, and spoken word, to inspire teens to reengage with their lives and education. The Get Lit Rising book is profound, sharing the stories of 19 individual teen poets, the classic poem that inspired them, and their response poems.  The teens in this book have found their voices.

Founder, Diane Luby Lane explains the draw of poetry, “Poetry is a language of the soul. It is the way we express the things that can’t be said.

Get Lit Spoken Word Poetry Inspires Teens to Find Their Voices

Get Lit RisingThe purpose of Get Lit is to increase teen literacy and cultivate kids to inspire social consciousness in diverse communities and for kids to engage in education and life.

And here’s the thing: IT WORKS!

Get Lit is changing lives. The spoken word Get Lit Players are going to college, most with scholarships, their school attendance has improved, and they show an increase in school engagement and academic excellence.

Can you tell how excited I am to share this with you?! Get Lit Rising made me want to start this spoken word poetry program somewhere, right now, and be part of this awakening, this incredible movement that helps kids unlock their voices in a powerful way. Maybe you’ll feel the same way, too.

Connect with a Classic Poem

Get Lit introduces teens to the masters of poetry. It helps teen find the meaning in poems, meaning that you and I both know sometimes can not be captured by anything else but a poem.

The motto is: “Claim Your Poem, Claim Your Life.

Any great poetry is defined as a classic or a master. Here are just a few that the teens in the book used for their classic poems. When you want to find your own poem, the book includes 200 poem ideas to get you started.

“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen
“Mi Problema” by Michele Serros
“The Negro Mother” by Langston Hughes
“A Smile to Remember” by Charles Bukowski
“Tonight in Yoga” by Sierra DeMulder
“Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman
“Her Kind” by Anne Sexton
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bisho
“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy
“Touched by an Angel” by Maya Angelou
“Memorial” by Francisco X. Alarcon
“Shout Out” by Sekou Sundiata

Write a Response Poem

After students have found their classic poem, they write a response poem.

Here’s why I couldn’t put this book down. Each person shares an essay about their life, which is really interesting and gives you a glimpse of their point of view. The kids share their classic poem. And then you’ll read their response poems. Talk about depth! These poems deal with body image, parents, pain, bullying, food, rape, love, growing up, race, . . . things that really matter; things that the poets are working out or that need to be worked out by society.

Jessica Romoff’s classic poem was “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton. She wrote “Manners” in response and it is reprinted here with the written permission of Get Lit.


Jessica Romoff


My mom always taught me
That it’s easier just to say sorry
To say please and thank you


Occasionally, no thank you. I was force-fed table manners,
Phrases like, “When you have nothing nice to say, don’t say
“Don’t use the word ‘hate’; instead say, ‘I don’t care for,’”
“And remember to say ‘Sorry,’ even when it’s not your fault.”
I carried each of my mother’s syllables with the loose
change in my pockets,
Held them under my tongue and between clenched jaws.


Luckily, I haven’t been in too many other situations where
I’ve had to stray from one of those phrases.
There was just this one time,
When I was at a party and this guy
Kept coming up to me
And he kept touching me and pulling on my arm
And I was trying to push him off, but that wasn’t working
And I had no idea what to do
Then he said I was just a stupid slut in front of everyone


And the only words that would fit in my mouth
That my tongue could wrap around
The only words that I could whisper into the empty stomach
of the room was, “I’m sorry.”
All I could say was, “I’m sorry.”


It felt like he was sliding my self-worth back into my
Like he was hemming my lips over themselves, teaching my
And all I could hear was my mom telling me to put my napkin
on my lap
To remember to say please and thank you
And all I could remember was
If I had nothing nice to say,
Don’t say anything at all.
Do not say anything at all.


My mom never told me that sometimes the right word is,
Is, “Leave me alone,”
Is, “Don’t touch me,”
Is using your knuckles instead of a quivering throat.
My mom never told me that sometimes I’m going to have to
forget my table manners,
That I’m gonna have to eat with my fingers,
That I am going to hate,
That I’m gonna get dirt in my nails sometimes.


I’ve been teaching myself now . . .
Getting better at looking people in the eyes
Learning how to grit my teeth,
Not needing to keep one hand on the phone
And the other on the pepper spray
When I’m alone.


’Cause I have faith in my bones,
’Cause I have faith in my shoulders and my knees,
And I don’t need to keep saying I’m sorry
When I have a pair of lungs and a tongue
That works just fine.


See what I mean?




Reflect and Write

Now readers are tasked with going deeper and connecting to their own lives. First, the book prompts readers to LOOK IN (reflect) with questions like “Have you ever felt shut out or cut off by friends?

Next, readers are asked to SHOUT OUT (write). “Tell the story of a time you fought with a parent.”

The final part of each Get Lit poet’s section is to claim your classic by exploring the ten poetry suggestions that are related to the theme. I loved looking these up and was pleasantly surprised to find many of them on the internet. (Copyright permission makes some poems not available except in books.)

claim your classic poem Get Lit Rising book

Spoken Word Poetry

A big piece of all of this is the performance of spoken word poetry. All of the kids in this book competed in local, regional, and national poetry festivals (sometimes called slams) and were selected to be in the Get Lit Players group. They, along with other kids involved with Get Lit program, must share their poems on stage in front of an audience.

The Get Lit Players featured in this book are a professional performance troupe made up entirely of teenagers from high schools in the L.A. area. They’ve performed with John Legend, Questlove, Gloria Steinem, and been invited to the White House, and they wrote the manifesto for Dove’s #choosebeautiful campaign. They even have an album you can find on iTunes.

Get Lit Players

Poetry is meant to be read out loud. Spoken word poetry takes an oral reading and turns it into something more. It’s an emotional, dramatic performance often with a strong beat. Have you seen it before?

Watch a Get Lit Player’s spoken word performance.

Watch 10 TED Talks spoken word poets here.

And if you feel emotional after watching, . . . then the poets have done their jobs.


The Get Lit curriculum is available to purchase here. It’s a way to show teens that their voices matter. Not only that, this gives them a voice.

You’ll most likely want to start your own poetry group like Get Lit after reading this book. Fortunately, the book gives suggestions for doing so at the end!!

For more information, visit their website here.

POET shirt

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