The culminating activity for the poetry unit in Tasha Hurst’s creative writing class was just what the students asked for – spoken word.
Spoken word is poetry recited out loud that focuses on word play, intonation and voice inflection among other aspects that the Ocean Lakes High School (OLHS) English teacher discussed with her students.
“Everybody got to bring their favorite spoken word video to class and we talked about what makes them powerful,” she explained.
They discussed questions like: How did they use language? Where were they purposeful in their choices? What is their message? What’s the power behind the words that they’re saying?
Then Hurst challenged the class: What message do you have for an audience? What do you want to say?
What OLHS senior Jenah Creecy wanted to say was not obvious to her at first — or even later. She admits to being a procrastinator but also says that’s when she does her best writing. She also says it’s indicative of attention deficit disorder (ADD), which became the focus of her poem.
“I was talking to my friend, and I said, ‘I really don’t know what to write about. I’m so lost.’ Which is funny because it’s part of my ADD that I was putting it off,” she said.
“I was online. I was looking up random facts. My friend said, ‘What are you doing? You need to focus. Your ADD is getting in the way.’ I said, “You’re right! That’s what I should write about!”
At the moment of this revelation, she was looking at a webpage that included a fact about lightening being six times hotter than the sun.
“I thought, ‘Hey, that sounds pretty cool.’ That ended up being the first line. So all of those random facts that are in there are something I was actually looking at the time,” Creecy said.
Random facts woven throughout a very real, very personal perspective about her life with ADD, which she titled, “Like Lightning.”
It was undiagnosed until her sophomore year in high school when her struggles with AP chemistry became a daily ordeal requiring 12 hours for her to complete homework. Medicine has helped, though not understood by all. That stigma also became part of Creecy’s message.
My mind is no yellow brick road, she wrote and then recited in the spoken word video for class. It’s a maze with no end or beginning. I forgot how I started and I don’t know where I’m heading. No road signs lead the way, just harsh labels being stuck on me as I go. “Slacker.” “Procrastinator.” “Scatter-brained.” I want to scatter those names across an ocean whose color matches the eyes of that classmate who told me that taking pills to stay focused was cheating.
Creecy also included the misperception of a past boyfriend, a part of the piece she said is one of her favorites.
I was medicated for it in my junior year, and I remember telling my boyfriend at the time about it and I was met with the response of, “Oh, thank god, you’ll be fixed,” as if my hour long homework sessions and my incessant question-asking during the Star Wars movies were something that made me broken.
“That’s something he actually did say to me,” recalled Creecy. “I got very self-conscious at that point, thinking that maybe people find me annoying and I would not want to talk.”
She moved past the comment and the boyfriend.
“That was something I overcame, too, so that’s one of my favorite lines because I feel empowered because I overcame that.”
“It makes it so vulnerable for a teenager,” interjected Hurst about how Creecy approached the work.
Hurst also has favorite sections, mainly because of the insight they have provided her as a teacher.
I was diagnosed with it in my sophomore year but I had been drawing the symptoms of it on every homework paper in the form of graphite flower sketches and random swirls since first grade.
“As a teacher, how many doodles have I seen on kids’ papers,” said Hurst after reading the line. “Even Jenah in my class sometimes, I see her always just doodling. As I teacher you wonder, do I take offense to it or do I just let it go?”
After seeing Creecy’s video, says Hurst, now you just understand.
“That resonated with me and I think a lot of other teachers,” Hurst said. “The classroom scenario where you said, ‘I’m the girl who always asked the question that just got asked.’ They’re very relevant! That’s been the feedback from so many teachers: ‘I see this in my own students.’”
One teacher told Hurst he even saw it in himself. “That’s so me. Everything she said is me.”
Despite the struggles and negative comments, the always-smiling Creecy embraces her ADD.
“I appreciate the fact that it does make me think differently. Maybe I don’t always notice what you say, but I am noticing little things,” she said. “Which is why I like my writing because it’s the details that I notice when I’m not paying attention to what you’re saying that end up in my writing. It definitely makes me think better in a way.”
Her thinking and determination are reflected in her academic record. The honor roll student has earned a scholarship to attend Virginia Wesleyan next year, though her success has surprised some peers.
“‘You have good grades, I don’t know how you have ADD.’ I get that a lot.” Creecy said.
“It doesn’t make me stupid. It just makes things harder,” she added. “It doesn’t come easy to me. I work really, really hard for my grades. I’m pretty determined to get things done, even though I don’t get them done in a reasonable amount of time.”
Writing, however, is something that comes easily to her.
She wrote the poem for Hurst’s class in about 10 minutes, memorized it after slight revisions, and delivered a spoken word performance that has moved many. Once Creecy made the private online post public, at the urging of both her mother and volleyball coach who wanted to share it with family and friends, a television station in Florida contacted her for an interview and to share the video on its website.
Creecy wants all credit to go to her OLHS English teachers Hurst and Katie Anderson for teaching her everything she knows about writing. Hurst rebuffs the notion, stating that Creecy created the “amazing work” all on her own, even making the most of quick speaking to convey her message.
“I felt like it was kind of how my mind actually works, so I did it that way,” said Creecy. “Also, talking that fast, I feel like that’s how my brain is going, constantly all around.”
View Creecy’s spoken word “Like Lightning” below.