Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Poetry to express the world through TV

More than a dozen children were inquisitive and wanted to learn more from Tiffany
Mishe about writing poetry and spoken word art during a writing workshop at the
Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp on June 10. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to make sense. That’s what spoken word artist Tiffany Mishé explained to more than a dozen children attending the Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp at the Memphis Black Arts Alliance (MBAA) FireHouse Community Arts Center on Friday, June 10.
Under the heading “Tell-Lie-Vision,” Mishé scribbled three columns of words on a wall-sized mirror that reflected the title of her writing workshop and encouraged the children of various ages and grade levels to cobble together an original poem using words like killing, nasty, work, drugs, program, power, dysfunction.
“Don’t be afraid – freestyle. You can repeat lines too,” said Mishé, encouraging the young novices to be creative and reflective. Heeding her instructions, they picked up their writing utensils and moved like ants in their pants to construct a few stanzas from the batch of words to kindled their imagination.
After the Tell-Lie-Vision writing workshop was over, Tiffany
Mishe and her students pose for posterity, showing off the
poetry they created. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
When they finished cobbling together the words associated with “Tell-Lie-Vision,” Samaiya Riley, a 10th-grader attending Douglass High School this fall, stood up to recite her poem. The 15-year-old then let it rip.
“When I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision, I see Black girls working/ I see nasty/ I see killing when I turn off the Tell-Lie-Vision/ It’s still going.
“It’s like I never turned it off/ It’s like no stop button/ No going back.
“I turn the Tell-Lie-Vision back on/ Then I stop and think what is the point/ I see it everyday in life.”
Rose Washington, 8, will be passing to the 3rd grade in the fall at Memphis Scholars Academy Caldwell Guthrie. She sings and debuted once on TV. Without prodding from Mishé, she faced the group and, unabashedly, took a crack at it.
“Turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision/ And when I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision I see work/ I see a Black girl turn-up and have drugs/ When I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision, I seem so happy/ I feel program in my heart.”
“The technique is called pre-writing. In order to have strong writing, you have to have pre-writing,” said Mishé, founder of Speak Poetry Memphis and the nationwide 4th place winner of the 2012 Community Action Project for social benevolence.
 Tell-Lie-Vision, she said, was her way of introducing the children to spoken word art. It also was the title of a spoken word piece she wrote when she was a troubled 17-year-old student at Overton High School. She eventually graduated in 2006.
“It talked about the media and how it affected me,” said Mishé, who found it difficult to cope in high school when her life was spiraling out of control. “The [Tell-Lie-Vision] workshop is one of my signature workshops. I wanted to let them know that.”  
Mishé is a seasoned scribe who teaches spoken word poetry to at-risk youth and those troubled by their circumstances. She feels their pain and has garnered local and national attention for her artistic endeavors and community projects.
Sharp, quick-witted, expressive, Mishé has an affinity for teaching the art of spoken word. The children adored her and enlivened the discussion by asking questions and being interactive. They were engaged and projected to show command of the language. For some, the words flowed. Others stammered.
Mishé insisted that 12-year-old Jaylin Jefferson – an 8th-grader on his way to Appling Middle School in the fall – deliver his poem with vigor and intensity. She was trying to get him to bring every word to life. He eventually made her smile.
When the “Tell-Lie-Vision” writing workshop was over, Jaylin expressed gratitude. “I learned how to do poetry better than I could,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Jecaryous Lang, 10, was impressed as well. The 5th grader at Ellendale Elementary School in Bartlett, discovered that rap is poetry and poetry is rap. His words reflected his appreciation for Mishé and her acumen for teaching.
“I learned that you could change a rap song into a poem. When you do that, you have to speak loudly,” said Jecaryous, noting that fear sometimes gets the best of people who have to stand up in front of people. Nevertheless, he managed to survive Mishé’s first writing workshop at Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp.

(For more information about spoken word art and therapy, contact Tiffany Mishé at or at

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