The aroma of coffee and pastries took over the The Night Owl as anticipation filled the air Thursday, competing with the sound of the thundering espresso machines and murmuring guests. Behind the coffee shop, high school students nestled together in the frigid weather and prepared to read poetry.
“Be the Poem” poetry night at The Night Owl was hosted by students at El Modena High School located in the city of Orange. The students were encouraged to come to the event by their teacher Vicki Mull who urged them to express their voice in front of their peers, family and even a few strangers.
“I was definitely nervous. I’m not very good at talking in front of people. Or talking to people. But it was someone else’s words and that helped a lot,” said Scarlet Edwards, senior at El Modena High School.
Edwards is the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, Frontline. She was also one of the few students who helped her teacher organize the event. Edwards was the first of her group to go on stage and perform her favorite poem, “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath.
Although some of these young students had a fear of speaking, eight of them decided to overcome their fear and express their emotions and feelings. Many of the students found poems from prominent authors whose work personally resonated with them.
“It just kind of helped me live vicariously through characters, and my love for reading books eventually led to my love for reading poetry too, because it is like books but condensed and they have more meaning in fewer words,” Edwards said.
After she gave her performance, seven other students went on stage and gave their speeches. Although some of them may have nervously stuttered, everyone in attendance was vocally and emotionally supportive. Many students were even shouting loudly in support when their classmates went up to the mic.
The night was filled with of a lot of coffee, laughter and support from the students’ friends and family who attended the event.
While this night was organized exclusively for the students at El Modena High School, The Night Owl hosts an open mic night for poetry every last Sunday of each month and is always open to the public.
Edwards said she’ll continue to encourage people to express themselves through poetry.
“Just do it. It’s a lot of fun. It can be scary going into it feeling like you are exposing yourself to everyone, but that is kind of the best part,” Edwards said. “You can say what you feel and be accepted by the people because it is an art.”