Tonight, students will take the stage at MACA’s Greenlee Theatre to express their words and thoughts at the annual Poetry Slam.

The event is at 7 p.m. and hosted by McDowell High School’s Writer’s Bloc club. It features creative writing students from Andy Ferguson’s class at MHS, or any student who wants to share.

“We are thrilled with the partnership with MACA,” said Ferguson. “There is no format and there are many different styles of performances and performers. They bring their own style.”

The proceeds from the event will support entry fees and travel expenses to the Montreat Creative Writing Festival. Admission to tonight’s event is donation-based. Coffee and doughnuts are available from Mr. Bob’s and Crooked Door.

But before taking the stage tonight, creative writing and poetry club students worked with the talents of North Carolina poet, author and teaching artist Phillip Shabazz. He hosted a series of workshops with students this week focusing on a variety of topics.

“He has been pushing them to compose and pushing them off in their own direction,” said Ferguson.

According to his website, Shabazz teaches writing workshops across North Carolina and is affiliated with the N.C. Arts Council. He currently lives in Chapel Hill, and was a resident artist at Duke University.

“I challenge them (students) to use their powers of observation and perception, and write a poem about them personally,” said Shabazz.

Students in the Wednesday workshop were working on identity poems by using what they see in the face of a friend, a stranger, a famous person, book character, etc.

“I do what I can to open up the possibilities for the choices so they won’t feel like they are in a box,” said Shabazz.

He is the guest speaker at tonight’s Poetry Slam, but as of Wednesday, hadn’t decided what he was going to read.

“I am excited. I’m itching for a scratch,” said Shabazz smiling. “I brought some new things with me and some old ones. I’m going to see how much time we have.”

Shabazz said poetry slams are great ways to showcase talent, but what’s more important is expressing your voice.

“These kids are the future of this country,” he said. “It’s good to have competitions, but it’s more important to get their ideas and their visions down, so they can bear witness to their own lives.”

For more information on Shabazz, visit his website flamesinthefireps.com.

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