What so cheesy, eating pizza is just so easy
Dough filled with ease, also with cheese
Everyone loves pizza, eat it before it eats ya
— Cayla B.
Six th grade, Samuel J. Green Charter School
If you order pizza this weekend, check your box topper, because it’s the one time of the year that the coupons typically pasted there give way to literature. It’s all thanks to Big Class, local pizzerias and the iambic pentameters of New Orleans’ best young writers.
On Friday, which falls right in the middle of National Poetry Month, the Pizza Poetry Project will distribute hundreds of original poems written and submitted by young poets ages 6 to 18 via participating pizza places. They are Reginelli’s, Theo’s, Mid City Pizza, Garage Pizza, Pizza Delicious, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, G’s Pizza and Dolce Vita.
You don’t have to pay any extra. The poems will be fastened to the boxes with stickers, so you can’t miss them. All you have to do is open your mind while you smash some pizza.
Big Class is a nonprofit that offers free programs for students to be creative and improve their writing skills.
“Our big goal at Big Class is to give young writers a platform to make their voices heard. This is a great way to give them an audience,” said Raven Crane, programs assistant at Big Class. “And the New Orleans pizza-buying public is a fun audience.”
This is the third year for Pizza Poetry. Crane said Big Class collected and distributed about 300 poems last year. Hoping to publish even more young writers this year, Big Class accepted submissions through its website, bigclass.org, and hosted writing workshops at New Orleans Public Library branches, like the one Victoria Belozerows, 15, a student at Cohen College Prep, attended at the main branch in New Orleans on March 24.
“It’s exciting to me because I love sharing my work. I think it’s pretty awesome strangers will get to read my stuff,” Victoria said.
You’ll know if you get Victoria’s work because each poem will be labeled with the name, age and school of its author. But there’s no telling what the poem will be about.
Crane said many of the submissions do reference pizza, but there are no topical restrictions, so long as the poems are family friendly.
So you could get something as left-field as “I’d rather eat raw fish than consume crawfish … crawfish is catastrophic.”
“People tell me I’m not from New Orleans because I don’t like seafood. But it was never huge in my family. My dad doesn’t like seafood either,” said Jordan Taylor, 17, a student at McDonogh 35 High School.
Jordan talked and cracked jokes throughout the writing workshop at the main library, but produced an honest piece of art nonetheless, one he hopes will be enjoyed beyond the life of the pie it’s attached to.
“It’s epic, someone seeing my work that I took time to create. Hopefully, they’ll share it and it keeps getting passed on,” he said.
And it could well live on forever. The best submissions from this year’s Pizza Poet Laureates will be published in an anthology that will be available from Big Class in May.
In the short term, Pizza Poetry day has become an annual event for many of the participating pizza companies.
Pizza Delicious, which is located near the Big Class offices in Bywater and regularly donates pizzas to the nonprofit, has participated each year.
“We get a big pile of poems, and the whole day our staff is reading them to each other, cracking up at the funny ones or getting sad if they’re a little dark,” said Michael Friedman, co-owner of Pizza Delicious. “We’ve definitely seen a lot of laughs at the shop from customers, and they’ll also post pictures and their reactions on Instagram and Facebook and tag us. It’s something people know about and have started to look forward to.”