Chris Rockwell visits Colonia

Chris Rockwell speaking to CHS poetry club members about cliches.

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff

Chris Rockwell speaking to CHS poetry club members about cliches.

On Tuesday, March 10, 2015 Chris Rockwell, Spoke Word Poet and New Jersey Past Poetry Slam Champion, came to Colonia High School’s Poetry Club meeting after school for their yearly poetry workshop in preparation for the Woodbridge Township Poetry Slam Competition coming up in May at the Barron Art Center where the three high Schools in Woodbridge Township with battle with figurative language.

For the last three years, Rockwell has been coming to Colonia High School once a year to offer a poetry workshop for Colonia’s Poetry Club. Rockwell comes after school for an hour and a half to offer students advice, tips, suggestions, and teaches them new techniques and strategies. However, he has spoken at the other two high schools in the district and to a few English and Creative Writing classes at those schools as well.

The idea of Slam Poetry was created by construction worker Marc Smith in 1985 in Chicago. It began as an open mic night and transformed into a competition of words. Poets are judged on their poems and their performance, however, no costumes, music or props can accompany the poem. It is about the delivery of the original work. Sometimes audience enthusiasm is a component to the judging; audience members at a Slam are encouraged to snap and respond out loud when a poem touches them or speaks to them.

“At the first District Poetry Slam, Colonia crushed the competition. However, last year we placed second because of the order of poems.” Miss Danielle Simkovich, Poetry Club Adviser recanted. “What stinks is Colonia’s three poets who competed in round one had the highest scores of all the competitors, but only one poet from each school can advance to round two. If the competition was run differently, Colonia would have placed 1, 2, 3.”

For the most part, all the information Rockwell gives the poetry club students is to help them prepare for the spring Woodbridge Township Poetry Competition but it can assist poets with their craft as well even if they don’t plan on performing. Sometimes he will tell the students to write poems during his time there and then they will recite them while Rockwell provides feed back on content, style and delivery. Sometimes he gives little lessons to help the students improve their poetry.

This year, Rockwell gave the poetry club members a lesson about cliches. This year, he began with the question, “What is a cliche?” Although the students were confused at first, he continued with “shout out some cliches.” The point of the cliche lesson was to help get the poets to take a cliche, an over used, trite saying and make it their own so that the expected becomes the unexpected. For example, the cliche “Another day, another dollar”, one can change that to “Another day, another tomorrow” or “Another day, another dollar less.” By doing so, the poet can make their poem more original.

At the workshop, Simkovich provided munchkins which enticed some new faces to attend. Colonia’s Poetry Club will certainly be using Rockwell’s cliché lesson when thinking about the poems they will recite and write in the future. Since the Woodbridge Poetry Competition is coming up in the end of May, Rockwell lesson sure will help those participating prepare for the competition.

Who will represent Colonia in this year’s Woodbridge poetry competition? Well, Colonia’s Poetry Slam to see who advances to the Woodbridge completion will take place towards the end of April. Those thinking of auditioning for the three coveted spots on the Colonia Team should have 2 original poems written, rehearsed and memorized. Poems cannot exceed three minutes when being performed. According to, poems should be relatable to the audience and be able to emotionally reach the audience the first time they hear the poem. Poems having a rhythm tend to be easier to memorize and appeal to the audience. The performance should convey the writer’s passion for the subject matter or the poem.

And as always, Colonia Poetry Club is looking forward to seeing Rockwell at the Woodbridge township competition, and cannot wait until next year for another poetry workshop. The Poetry Club welcomes new members and encourages all poets and song writers to compose something everyday in the month of April for National Poetry Month.