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Anna West, AIE'11: A Passion for Spoken Word Poetry

Anna WestPoet Anna West came to the Arts in Education (AIE) Program in order to step back, gain perspective, and "sharpen my writing pencil," she says. The Louisiana native is heading back to her home state to pursue a doctoral degree in writing and culture. She plans to continue along the path of asking questions and building conversations around the cultural, pedagogical, and organizing practices of youth spoken word poetry.

"Anna West proves you can be outspoken and a fabulous listener -- all at once. With her passion for youth spoken word poetry and her extensive experience as a leader in that field, Anna has challenged us throughout the year," says Lecturer Steve Seidel, director of AIE. "Her commitment to building the field of youth spoken word has provided a provocation to all of us in AIE to consider ways in which we can act to strengthen the realms of activity we care about most deeply Anna has also demonstrated the kind of leadership that is guided by deep moral purpose and fundamental human values of respect, caring, and love."

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for AIE, West answered some questions about her time at the Ed School.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education? I've become a better listener here. In school I've been able to slow down the production process, to pay closer attention. I hope I'll take that with me to classrooms, boardrooms, and living rooms. My continued education depends on it, and any use I'll be to others' educations depends upon it, too.

Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? The mentorship I've received from Steve Seidel has shaped the experience I've had here. On the very first day of his The Arts in Education class, Steve Seidel talked about education having more to do with the stance one takes towards one's own ignorance than any other thing. Nine months later, I'm still thinking about this idea. Steve has held out many frames that have been immensely useful to my thinking. But he's also just held a space, with great kindness, that has helped me to be grounded here.

Any special study spots on campus (or off)? Lately, my back porch, basking in the dual light of the sun and the computer.

What will you change in education and why? I think I will always be working towards a vision of education that re-centers the art in the English Language Arts classroom. That is, I'd like to bring the poet and the storyteller back into the center of that space. Furthermore, I'd like to bring the student into the center of the classroom, and therefore the student herself as the artist and storyteller. And then I'd like to bring the classroom into the center of the polis, and therefore the student in the center of the public space, which is one way of thinking about democracy. I want this because the experiences and connections made through the arts are vital to the health and survival of both individuals and communities.

If you could transport one person/place/thing from HGSE to your next destination, what would it be? I would just like to have the chance to attend a [Professor Robert] Kegan lecture once a week for the rest of my life, if that's not too much to ask.

What advice do you have for next year's students going through your program? Make one friend while you are here, a real one.