former National Council of Teachers of English President
What Peter Kahn accomplished with Oak Park River Forest High School students was transformational — for individual kids, for the school, for the community. Spoken Word Club became a vehicle for voices that in traditional spaces often go unheard.
National Book Award winner and MacArthur Genius recipient
Peter Kahn is the kind of reader of poetry, teacher of poetry, and poet who makes the world easier for other readers, teachers and poets.
Ted Hughes Award winner and The Guardian Poetry Book of the Year
There is no hyperbole here: Peter Kahn has saved many young lives, including my own. As a mentor, father-figure and teacher-poet, Kahn showed me how not to separate the identity of a teacher from the identity as a poet.
OPRFHS class of 2005, MFA in Creative Writing-Boston University, comedian/writer/actor–lead writer for HBO’s PAUSE with Sam Jay, nominated for a WGA award, appears on Insecure, South Side, The Boys, Bless This Mess and Bust Down.
The introduction to poetry via Mr. Kahn was single-handedly the most transformative moment in my life because it taught me to begin to seek out purpose in all forms of study.
Columbus, Ohio Student Feedback
Respect the Mic Poetry Café Unit 1st Semester Student Feedback from Ft. Hayes and Centennial (2022-2023):
“The respect the mic unit was inspirational and moving.”
“Poetry week is an awesome week that allows you to explore your inner poet.
“what i learned about myself was that poetry can be a source of healing for me for the tough times that i am going through right now.”
“everyone has something that is digging at them that they want to say but poetry provided a way for them to express it.”
“Poetry was a fun experience that gets people to express themselves more. Plus when you get to present your poem it is very scary but it helps you get over your fear.”
"The Respect the Mic unit was used as a learning experience. Most things I was taught, I didn't know before. It also allowed me to get out my shell a little and feel more confidence in my writing.”
“I learned that all of us have different stories, some funny, some sad, some encouraging, there were a lot of my classmates who had very interesting stories.”
2nd Semester Poetry Slam Unit Grandview Heights & Centennial student feedback:
“I am much better at poetry than I expected.”
“I was capable of doing something that I thought i would never be good at.”
“I learned that I can share things with people and not be judged because of it.”
“I really like poetry and it’s a good way for me better understand my emotions”
“I learned that if I really dig deep into my feelings I can express a lot more than I thought I could with poetry.”
“I learned to be vulnerable through my writing and that poetry can help you through so much."
Columbus, Ohio Teacher Feedback
2nd Semester Linden-McKinley and Ft. Hayes teacher feedback:
“When is Peter coming back”? This is the question that never ended despite telling them exact dates he would be back for Poetry Cafe Session Two. This question alone was nice because my students tend to shy away from all strangers that come into the building but here they were wanting to know when the “cool poet” was returning. For some students he left such an impression that they would write poetry in their free time and leave it on my desk to read….
Through this partnership, I found the most challenging thing was not getting the students interested or maintaining that interest. The most challenging thing was a mere four words, ‘my poem is good’ because it was an insecurity that we all had to overcome in order to write and share our poems. Embracing that vulnerability that comes with writing and sharing a poem is like walking through a brick wall. It seems impossible but it is only impossible if you only think you have to walk through the wall. Stepping back and realizing there is a door to walk through calms you. Just like saying, ‘my poem is good’ and hearing a room full of people respond, ‘yes it is.’ A confident teacher of poetry. Yes, that is now me and this brings us full circle. I can teach poetry. I can make it interesting. I can. We can. Would I do this again? Absolutely because Peter showed me how.”
“After transitioning forward into the ‘new normal,’ we have struggled to surmount the unprecedented task of healing a fractured school community and maintaining behavioral boundaries/expectations… my department and I believed we needed more enrichment opportunities like Peter’s poetry program which invited ALL students to reconsider what it could look like for them to ‘Be Fort Hayes’-- a writer, a poet, an editor, a dreamer, a teammate, a performer. How do we take our pain, our rage, our apathy, our hope, our purpose and explore and express ourselves in a way that is healthy and cathartic? Peter created an opportunity for my colleagues and I to show our students what Fort Hayes is supposed to look like, and invite them to rise up and exceed that expectation.”