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Peter Kahn        

Spoken Word Educator, High School English Teacher & Author

A former Chicago social worker, Peter Kahn has been an English teacher since 1994 and a Spoken Word Educator since 2003 at Oak Park/River Forest High School. Kahn created the Spoken Word Poetry Educator position to help promote student engagement and voice, to close the opportunity gap, and to combat high ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) scores.

Kahn is the founder and sponsor of Oak Park's Spoken Word Club — the largest school-based club of its kind in the world. Alumni include NBA champion, Iman Shumpert; former Scholastic Arts National Youth Poet Laureate, Natalie Richardson; National Youth Poet Laureate, Kara Jackson; and comedian, Langston Kerman (HBO, MTV, IFC, NBC, Comedy Central). Several have gone on to earn full-tuition scholarships to university as a result of poetry and to earn MFA’s in Creative Writing. Several have been published in Poetry magazine, two with work written while in high school. His students can be seen in the documentary, Louder Than a Bomb and Steve James’ Starz docu-series, America to Me.

A founding member of the London poetry collective Malika’s Kitchen, he co-founded the London Teenage Poetry Slam and, as a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths-University of London, created the Spoken Word Education Training Programme.

Kahn earned his MA in English Education from The Ohio State University, student taught at Columbus East High School and taught for the Young Scholars Program. He was a featured speaker at the National Council of Teachers of English’s annual convention and runner-up in the NCTE and Penguin Random House Maya Angelou Teacher Award for Poetry.

Along with Patricia Smith and Ravi Shankar, he edited "The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks" reviewed in The New York Times by Claudia Rankine. Along with Hanif Abdurraqib, Franny Choi, and former student Dan “Sully” Sullivan, he edited "Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School," deemed “Electric and Expansive” by Kirkus Reviews. Kahn’s 2020 poetry collection, "Little Kings" has poems featured in The London Guardian and The Forward Book of Poetry.

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Peter Kahn Workshops

An acclaimed workshop leader, for an additional fee, Peter is available to do training sessions and to lead workshops. In addition to teaming with universities, he has led workshops with adults through the Poetry Foundation and the English and Media Centre (UK) and he has led a variety of workshops with young people between 10-18 years old at over fifty schools around the world. Peter enjoys being paired with alumni which include accomplished rappers, writers and educators.


Poet Peter Kahn Conducts Poetry Workshop at Columbus City Schools
Centennial High School students in Sarah Barry’s English class stood before their peers to read poems they worked on during the week. The class listened as each student shared their experience with loss, grief, hope, celebration, or a funny memory. This in-class poetry reading is part of a yearlong workshop led by Peter Kahn, an educator, poet, and project creator. Kahn has worked as an English teacher and a Spoken Word Educator at Oak Park/River Forest High School. He is the founding member of the London poetry collective Malika’s Kitchen, co-founded the London Teenage Poetry Slam, and has poems featured in the London Guardian and The Foward Book of Poetry.
A high school spoken-word club changed students' lives. Now, you can read their poems - NPR
When Peter Kahn became an English teacher at the Chicago-area Oak Park and River Forest High School, he was terrified of teaching poetry. "Poetry was my least favorite subject as a student, and my least favorite subject to teach as a teacher," he says. "I was terrible at it." So he asked a former student of his for help, who suggested the idea of a poetry slam — a competition in which poets perform spoken word poetry before a live audience.
America to Me, Episode 2 Recap: Same Old OPRF
Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks In Form: An Interview with Peter Kahn
Lit 50: Who Really Books In Chicago 2020
How Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry is connecting Emmett Till with the violence in Chicago today
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