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Press Release

Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
March 21, 2003

Hip-Hop Poet Will Talk to High School Students at Power of the Pen Event at Carnegie Mellon

PITTSBURGH—On Thursday, March 27, hundreds of Pittsburgh high school students will converge on Carnegie Mellon University to shout, whoop and cheerčall in the name of good poetry at the 10th annual Power of the Pen writing conference.

Every year, Power of the Pen brings students from city high schools to Carnegie Mellon to hear poets, novelists and other professional writers talk about their craft. The event was founded by Pittsburgh novelist Albert French, and Ed Barr and Carol Lennon of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, a chief sponsor of Power of the Pen.

This year's keynote speaker is poet and hip-hop artist Toni Blackman, the first hip-hop artist to be designated as an American Cultural Specialist and Hip-Hop Ambassador by the U.S. Department of State. Blackman, who lives in New York City, is the founder and director of Freestyle Union and performed at the White House Millennium Celebration in 2000.

Other featured writers this year include French, whose books include "Billy" and "I Can't Wait on God"; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer and cartoonist Tim Menees; and Carnegie Mellon English Professor Jim Daniels, an award-winning poet and the director of the university's Creative Writing Program. Daniels is one of the main organizers of Power of the Pen.

Students attend workshops during the morning and the early afternoon. But the most anticipated part of the day is the Poetry Slam, a free-spirited, sometimes raucous event in which students read poetry in front of an auditorium full of their peers. The poems are evaluated by a panel of judges who hold up cards, Olympic figure-skating style, to indicate how many points each poem receives. The crowd is known to cheer wildly for a particularly well-written verse and boo when the judges don't give a favored poem the recognition the audience thinks it deserves. The winners receive prizes, and prizes are also given to the winners of the Power of the Pen writing contest.

Power of the Pen is sponsored by Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, Pittsburgh Public Schools and Carnegie Mellon. For more information, contact Jonathan Potts with Carnegie Mellon at 412-268-6094 or Diane Hughes with Pittsburgh Public Schools at 412-338-8007.


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