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Moving Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Publication Date: 2010-09-03

Michael Cirelli has been a National Poetry Slam individual finalist. Cirelli has performed all over the country, while teaching writing workshops to teenagers up and down the West coast. While in L.A., he was the director of PEN Center West's, Poet In The Classroom program. He is currently an MFA candidate at the New School University and the Director of Urban Word NYC.

Think of how Cirelli acknowledges languages other than his own native tongue as the Standardistos scream for the Common Core, meaning Oliver Goldsmith for all. Here is a passage from Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, chosen at random. Read it and ask yourselves what the Common Core Map Project people were drinking or injecting. This is for 12th graders, along with Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Emma, and The Sufferings of Young Werther, For informational text, they get The Diary of Samuel Pepys. How many stops beyond their comfort zone would these people be in the presence of real kids? And just what have you got when you've trained and/or bullied a kid to travel 6,853,896 stops beyond his comfort zone and read Sorrows of Young Werther?

As he was one day walking in the street, he saw a spacious building, which all were, by the open doors, invited to enter; he followed the stream of people, and found it a hall or school of declamation, in which professors read lectures to their auditory. He fixed his eye upon a sage raised above the rest, who discoursed with great energy on*the government of the passions. His look was venerable, his action graceful, his pronunciation clear, and his diction elegant. He showed with great strength of sentiment, and variety of illustration, that human nature is degraded and debased, when the lower faculties predominate over the higher; that when fancy, the parent of passion, usurps the dominion of the mind, nothing ensues but the natural effect of unlawful government, perturbation and confusion; that she betrays the fortresses of the intellect to rebels, and excites her children to sedition against reason, their lawful sovereign. He compared reason to the sun, of which the light is constant, uniform, and lasting; and fancy to a meteor, of bright but transitory lustre, irregular in its motion, and delusive in its direction.

This reads better from The Academy of American Poets website.


by Michael Cirelli

Deep in the Boogie Downâ"
         the bassinet of the boom bap
           where the trinity is The Treacherous Three,

English is the third language
         behind Bronx and Puerto Rican,
     Â          and I was nervous

because I only speak Catholic school
     Â    and I'm a Red Sox fan.

I'm just a student of KRS-1, not a son,

on a train fourteen stops beyond my comfort
         zone hiding behind headphones coughing
            bass, and a backpack full of lyrics:

Notorious B.I.G., Rakim, Perdomo,
Run DMC, Brooks, wanting to be real cool,

wanting to be their "dawg"â"
     Â    but feeling like a mailman,
        Â          another Elvis

to the students I will lead
    through a workshop in a language

     Â      I itch to get my rusted cavities around.

from Vacations on the Black Star Line, published by Hanging Loose Press.

Michael Cirelli's first collection, Lobster with Ol' Dirty Bastard (Hanging Loose Press, 2008) was a New York Times best-seller from an independent press and was features in the "Debut Poets" Issue of Poets & Writers magazine. He has also authored two curricula, Poetry Jam (Recorded Books, 2010) and Hip Hop Poetry & The Classics (Milk Mug, 2004),

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