‘Motorcycle Poet’ shows students it’s OK to be real

December 25, 2013 

I planned to attend a session with Craig Gurney, “the Motorcycle Poet,” in Kimberly Napier’s class at Peninsula High School earlier this month. I misjudged time and walked into the classroom as students were filing out. Embarrassing!

All was not lost. I had a chance to meet and chat briefly with Gurney and Napier, who teaches AP language and senior English composition. My camera even caught their images.

Should Gurney come back, I will definitely be there — on time.

Gurney delighted students in PHS English and creative writing classes with his humorous and authentic verse. With an insider’s perspective based in extemporaneous composition, his poetry is reminiscent of the genre known as “Cowboy Poetry.”

“His poetry evoked giggles, gasps and, at times, embarrassed guffaws in reaction to words that were often raw, gritty and earthy,” Napier said.

Student Brenden Loska thought if he used weaker, more politically correct terms, his poetry might have sounded off-beat.

“His last poem, ‘Riding with an Angel,’ is stuck in my head,” Loska said.

Joe Diaz enjoyed how he went to the edge in his poems.

Sarah Kashuba liked his use of humor and how he connects to his audience.

“He is an influence to all who love imagery and can imagine being in his poems,” Austin Edwards said.

Through cognitive challenge and literary experimentation, guest speakers enhance students’ perspectives and broaden their horizons, Napier explained.

“They are often invited into classrooms to compel students to view the world through a different lens; to provoke a diversity of thought; and to apply these new ideas to their own learning process,” she said.

“The Motorcycle Poet accomplished this and so much more. Discussion was lively and provocative, and students left class with a new idea of what poetry is, what it offers, and what it can mean in their own lives.”

Student Noah Hanks thought Gurney’s poetry was a great experience.

“He made me want to read more poems, if they were that style,” Hanks said. “He created a great picture and story in my mind, and I loved it.”

McKenzie Looney said Gurney creates vivid pictures with his poems.

Mason Marinkovich liked his real-world style and his humor.

“At the end of many of his poems, he had something humorous or that completely changed the subject,” Marinkovich said.

Justin McFarland liked the way Gurney used his words.

Julie Bruey, who teaches creative writing at PHS, said she invited Gurney into her classroom to give students an opportunity to witness poetry from “the real world.”

“They always wonder, ‘How does this apply to my life?’ ” she said. “To hear a poetry reading, live, is powerful and important.

“Craig’s voice is an example of someone, as he describes himself, who is ‘an ordinary guy’ with normal everyday life and uses language to capture it,” Bruey added. “Craig’s recitation of his poetry reminded us that ordinary happenings are extraordinary.”

Marcus Martinez said Gurney had a great sense of tone and could paint a picture with his words

“I loved the way he altered my mind to expand with his daring vocabulary,” Tiffany Lopez added. “He had charming poetry, but at the same time, it had an edgy feel. His poetry was real and provocative.”

Ari Agnew called it “fresh.”

“I feel like we need more of those elements in the high school curriculum,” Agnew said.

Dominick Sookbirsing said the poems gave real-life scenarios a deeper meaning.

“(He) was very different,” Natalie Lampert said, “and I found it to be a good different, because he has poems males relate to.”

“I think he has a hidden brilliance that most people can’t comprehend,” Kristen Skeen added. “His writing is raw and meaningful.”

Kash Serock also enjoyed Gurney’s sense of humor.

“Sometimes it is hard to hold the interest of a young audience, but by having a sense of humor, we were actually able to understand his message and laugh at the same time,” Serock said.

Shane Hanon said Gurney broke some stereotypes, particularly about bikers.

“He had great humor and diction within his poetry, and it was much appreciated by me,” Bailey Burrows said.

Paige Rice said Gurney pulled off “exactly the kind of things bikers would say, but in a beautiful way.”

Lulu Rae Lingonfelter liked Gurney because she said he reminded her of several road trips taken back and forth to Nebraska.

“He was emulating the ‘biker guy’ stereotype, which he did very well,” Lingonfelter said. “You don’t get to hear that kind of poetry every day.”

Gurney’s visit coincided with a competition at PHS during which hundreds of students selected one or two poems from the Poetry Out Loud anthologies and websites to memorize. The competition winner competes at local and, potentially, state and national levels.

“The motorcycle poet showed us that it is 100 percent OK to be real,” Liz Wheeler said.

And that’s good to know.

Hugh McMillan is a longtime freelance writer for The Peninsula Gateway. He can be reached at 253-884-3319 or by email at hmcmnp1000@centurytel.net.

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