Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 17, 2010

Rap, Rhyme, and … Accepting a Quiet Voice

A friend recently sent an email wondering if, since someone who’d agreed to lead some library programs could no longer do so, I’d step in to lead two poetry workshops at a nearby library. I agreed if the dates worked out, then heard from the person in charge that the workshop for teens was called Rap, Rhyme, and Writing.

This isn’t exactly my area, I replied, but was informed they hoped to bring new kids to the library, i.e. teen boys, I expect. I wanted to be helpful, but when I told my daughter about this proposition, she said, “Mom. Do you even know the names of any rappers?”


“Mom, I know you could research and do a talk about the history of hip-hop or something, but teach people how to write it? Listen to the winners of the Grammys for rap from the last five years. See what you think. And if you decide to do this, you have to stream it live onto Facebook. This is something I’d want to hear.”

I didn’t listen to the top five winners. I didn’t listen to one. She’d made her point, and I checked back with the librarian who agreed I shouldn’t try to fill shoes that were never going to fit. I came up with this a workshop called Writing from Life, which she edited to “Life 2 Poems,” which does look cooler, but not, I hope, cool beyond what I can handle.

Bless the librarians who try to bring more teens into libraries. Bless any aspiring rappers who may come to my workshop. But I’ll be happy, too, if there are only shy girls like I was at that age. And anyone who is ready to hear me say. “Don’t be afraid. Let’s try starting with something small.”



  1. Be you and you’ll be great!!!!!


  2. You have a very smart daughter! 🙂 The kids will love your presentation.

  3. Oh, Jeannine, this made me smile! Good for you for going with your own strengths. I think you’re plenty cool already. xo

  4. This is funny, Jeannine, and I agree with Amy–you’re plenty cool! (And you have one wise daughter.)

  5. Thanks, guitar girl, for this and your many generous cheers.

  6. Thanks, Becky! Too bad I can’t bring along smart daughter! I’ll be happy if I get a few kids who are happy with a few of their new lines.

  7. It’s good to have friends who think you’re cool.
    And a daughter who makes me laugh! And reconsider.

  8. Thanks, Lorraine. We’re lucky to have wise and sometimes amusing children!

  9. You are definitely cool–way cool, in fact.

    But why not explore rap a bit, because you never know…. I mean, you know me, right? Well, for the Green Mountain Book Award handbook and for the presentation at the Vermont School Library Association’s conference, I did a rap about Tyrell by Coe Booth. (If you want to read it, it’s at on page 16, under “Booktalk.”

    Even if rap isn’t my personal natural style, there are situations where it flows. And writing it felt kinda cool.

    (As did the applause from the school librarians.)

    C’mon, Jeannine, I dare you.

  10. Kathy, I would have applauded you, too! I like: Read
    the book—that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

    And I like a dare, but….

  11. Clearly your daughter should lead the rap session. And have fun with Life 2 Poems!

  12. I recently heard a great rap poem at Brookhaven National Lab about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. So, ya never know, about rap…its boundaries keep expanding.

    Enjoy Life 2 Poems, Jeannine!

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