Friday, April 18, 2014

High School "Cripple" Slams Stereotypes

Bella Trent, a talented and powerful young poet from Portland, recently used her command of language to challenge her audience's assumptions about people with disabilities.

The 16 year-old, who was born with arthrogryposis, a rare condition that keeps her joints locked in place, recently won Madison High School's 10th annual slam poetry contest with an impressive performance of her poem, “Cripple”. While seated in her wheelchair, Trent prompted the audience to face their prejudices by addressing stereotypes attached to people with disabilities.

“A great part of poetry is to be able to really show people that I can be more than they see,” says Trent. “It's a great opportunity to go beyond skin.”

As someone who has used either crutches or a wheelchair her whole life, Trent is often looked at as a quiet wallflower, but as her poetry shows, she has quite a bit to say, and she isn't afraid to say it. Her mother, Jessica Trent, confirms this, saying that her daughter has never been meek or shy. Watch her recite this amazing poem and you'll see that Trent has no problem holding back.

This poem is honest, relevant, and poignant—certainly not what one might expect from a 16 year-old slam poet. I mean to say, it lacks the contrived, overwrought tropes that many of my high school peers relied on with their poetry. Pretty impressive. Give it a look!

She and runner-up Reuben Cottingham will perform at Verselandia! on April 29th along with poets from nine other high schools in the Portland public school system.

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