Spoken word poet Wally B. Jennings challenges students to find their outlet

Wally B

On Tuesday, November 1st the Senior English class had a special visit by Walter “Wally B.” Jennings.

Wally B. is a Tampa native, spoken word poet, the coach for the Tampa Bay Area’s Brave New Voices team, host of Poetry Is, a radio show on WMNF, and founder of Heard ‘Em Say Teen Poetry. His poems share and discuss common experiences from everyday life, ranging from diabetes, marriage, and fatherhood, to youth empowerment and self-determination.

He started his visit by getting into the “honesty zone” with the students, because, to him, that is what poetry is all about.

“I shared my first poem out loud when I was at open mic my senior year of high school,” said Wally B. who started writing poetry when he was in 8th grade as part of an English assignment. “I couldn’t believe I got a standing ovation afterward. It was the first time I had been commended for being completely honest.”

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Wally B. shared that he was also part of the ROTC program for three years in high school and while he was in college. “I know [being part of a ROTC program] is not always pleasurable or easy and you may not fully understand it yet, but you will stand out from the rest. You will be poised and communicate well because of the training you are receiving,” said Wally who said the skills he learned helped him tremendously during job interviews.

After Wally B. shared some of his spoken word poetry, including “A letter to the middle school me” which sparked a discussion about all the advice to give yourself back in middle school, he gave the students an opportunity to share any poetry they had written.

“It is so important for everyone to have a platform to express themselves,” explained Wally B., whose poetical talents have allowed him to conduct over 1000 performances, workshops and mentorship sessions in the national spoken word community over his 16-year career.

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Ashton Taylor ‘17 read two poems: “I Wish Concrete Was Air” and “Savior”, which was about ending his career as a football athlete.

“This was the second time I had ever shared my poem with my peers,” said Ashton. “It is awkward, but Wally B. set the mood and I felt more comfortable because I could relate to him.”

Other students who shared their work included Gabby Spinelli ‘17 and her poem “One Life” and Drew Geralds ‘17 and her poem “A Poem Written After Reading the Magazines In the Checkout Stand”.