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NEWCOMB — Poetry was the focus for sixth- through eighth-grade students at Newcomb Middle School as they participated in the inaugural poetry slam at the school.

Niayla Curley stood in front of the microphone on Nov. 22 and read her poem, "Dorkalicious."

"Whenever kids put me down I remind myself, I'm super dorkalicious," she read. "Dork, nerd, geek, freak is all you see but just back off and let me be me. So back off. We're just being us."

The sixth grader explained the title in an interview after the program.

She said she was influenced by a book she read, where the main character calls herself a dork.

"I thought that was cool. I consider myself as a dork and a nerd. I felt that I needed to write the poem to tell people bullying is not good and they can be however they want to be," Curley said.

So, what is a dorkalicious?

"To me, it means that anyone can be however they want to be. You don’t have to call them anything," she said.

English Teacher Oliver Roe explained the poetry slam was developed to focus on and share the students' writing skills.

"I'm so honored that these students are brave enough to come on up and share their thoughts and souls with us here," he said.

Seventh grader Nannibah Willie read her poem, "Blue Mush."

"Chiichin is red, blue mush is blue, honey on frybread while drinking Mountain Dew," she read.

The poem goes on to describe an interaction between her grandparents she observed one day.

In an interview after the event, Willie explained that the setting the poem depicts her grandparents' home and about the time when her grandfather got their truck stuck in mud and her grandmother was disappointed because she had washed the vehicle earlier in the day.

"I was sitting in my kitchen, writing, and we had blue mush that evening," Willie said about adding the line about the traditional food.

"So, I was thinking, 'oh wow. I can put this in the poem,'" she explained.

Her mother, Lucille Willie, was touched by the poem because it focuses on family and demonstrates how her writing skills have developed.

"For her doing all this, she's my little inspiration," Lucille Willie said.

The poems by Willie, Curley and three additional students were selected as the best in the slam, as determined by ballots cast by teachers.

Principal Ethel Manuelito explained the middle school has a 90-day plan and the goal is to improve reading, writing and mathematics.

To reach the goal, the staff developed the poetry slam to develop students' vocabulary, spelling and reading.

"With poetry, for some reason, they got enthusiastic," Manuelito said.

The 21 students who presented poems on were selected by their peers, English Teacher Robyn Weiner said.

"It is a pleasure to see you grow as poets," Weiner said to students.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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