Poetry precedes prose in all cultures and all languages. There’s never been a culture without poetry, and poetry was always initially oral… Once written poetry exists in a society, oral poetry doesn’t go away. The two forms continue to exist and endlessly connect and invigorate one another… It’s evident that writing can do things that oral literatures can’t do. Similarly, oral poetry can do things that writing can’t do.

-Edward Hirsch, American poet and folklorist
Dr. Chou sings poetry

About Homer 2 Hip Hop:

With generous support from the Matisse Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Homer 2 Hip Hop is a multi-year in-school arts program that engages young people in exploring poetry and oral traditions from diverse cultures around the world, including from their own communities in NYC.

Oral poetry has existed much longer than literary poetry, and it continues to thrive as an expressive form in many world cultures, represents peoples’ histories and values, and is integral to their cultural rituals and everyday lives. Oral poetry is important for classroom teachers because it provides a pathway for oral language skill development, creates a crucial link between literature and spoken language, and it expands mainstream conceptions of what constitutes poetry and its functions.

Poetry—and oral poetry specifically—provides a particularly fun and unintimidating way of developing oral fluency, which is the gateway to developing literacy. It can help students develop both oral and written language skills. Spoken and sung forms can also help students to see connections between their own lives and the poetry they read in school, between literature and social studies, and between cultures and peoples across time and space through the geographic migration and adaptation of oral poetic forms. Making these kinds of connections is critical in terms of fostering a global and interconnected sense of literary heritage and deeper understanding and empathy for diverse cultures and their poetic expressions.

Homer to Hip Hop comprises:

  1. In-school artist residency programs of 16 sessions each at 4 partner schools in Queens: P.S. 69 and I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, and P.S. 11 and I.S. 125 in Woodside.
  2. Dedicated teaching artists specializing in poetry and spoken word, who will introduce students in grades 3-8 to diverse, multilingual oral poetry traditions from around the world (including from students’ own cultural backgrounds) and guide them to create their own works in these forms;
  3. Classroom visits by recognized poets practicing the different traditional and contemporary poetic forms;
  4. Training students in City Lore’s POEMobile software to project their words onto the physical environment;
  5. A culminating People’s Poetry Gathering bringing together the young poets and the guest poets for a one- day festival featuring performances, panels, and projections for the students;
  6. A sustained, sequential engagement with a cohort of students over time, offering a transformative experience as the ideas and practices at the core of the program are integrated into their world view;
  7. An evaluation study of 5 years of sequential learning conducted by Wolf Brown Associates; and
  8. A published and digital curriculum for educators on using oral traditions in the classroom.