Youth Poets Turn Up the Volume

. April 16, 2018.
19 Writers Competed for Poetry Slam Title
19 Writers Competed for Poetry Slam Title

Spring is finally, finally starting to show its face in Ann Arbor, and with the return of red-chested robins comes the highly anticipated poetry slam season for Washtenaw County teens. The competition began in March with a series of four preliminary bouts at Pioneer, Huron, Community, and Washtenaw International High School. Nineteen poets moved onto finals, hosted at The Neutral Zone on Thursday, April 12th. Teens competed for one of six spots on the Youth Poetry Slam Teen where they will travel to Chicago this summer for a national youth poetry institute.

The point is not the points

The event was hosted by Molly Raynor, Literary Arts director at the Neutral Zone. Judges for the evening included local writers Dylan Gilbert, Fiona Chamness, Marlin Jenkins, Franny Choi, and Daniel Bigham. The poetry slam featured two rounds, with ten poets moving onto the second round. In each round, the poets read original work with a time limit of three minutes, and the judges assigned a score of 0-10 to each poem, with 10 being the highest. Unlike in adult poetry slams, and in order de-emphasize the competitive element of the evening, scores were not read aloud. Alex Kime, leader of the Neutral Zone’s Riot Youth program and MC for the slam, was sure to remind the audience, “the point isn’t the points, the point is sharing,” an important message to remember when participating in, and attending, poetry slams. That being said, poetry slams are a great way for poets to bond with other writers in the community and often motivate them to create their best work. At the end of the day, it’s really not about how a poem scores, but the fun and excitement of participating in the reading.

Words that heal

No doubt the judges had their work cut out for them this year. From start to finish, area youth poets demonstrated they did not come to play. In the face of our country’s current climate, their writing tackled a wide range of experiences regarding injustice and adversity. From racism and gentrification to rape culture, body shaming, and mental illness, Ann Arbor high schoolers spoke their truths in volumes.

Even with the diversity in their writing, teens still tended to share a similar theme: standing strong against oppression, and reclaiming themselves. “Scars remind me that my ancestors, my culture, will forever be healing,” read Serena Varner of Washtenaw International High School. And the night, in many ways, was an evening of healing. Karley Misek’s piece Recovery expressed that “the hardest part of recovery is finding out what you’re recovering from.”

Despite the hardships many writers have faced, they managed to share their hopes and an undying strength. Sam Kass, Pioneer High School junior who wrote of struggling with OCD, spoke of her fear “weakness will become habit” but how she is, instead, intent to “make survival a habit.” Erica Mcdonald, Pioneer senior, found power in herself and the women around her, proclaiming, “she is bathed in resilience and she’ll make it alright.”

And the 2018 Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Team is…

The six poets who will make up Ann Arbor’s 2018 Youth Slam Team are Karley Misek, Anika Love, Aldo Pando Girard, Hasna Ghalib, Thea Rowe, and this year’s Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Champion, Serena Varner.

After the slam Hasna, a sophomore at Pioneer and affectionately known as “the Icon,” (and with her confidence and fierce attitude, it’s easy to see why), expressed her admiration for all the writers in the slam. Amidst her post-poetry performance euphoria and contagious enthusiasm, she cited her writing inspiration as poet Safia Elhillo, and her mom. Her ultimate playlist for poetry (and life) includes Daniel Caesar, SZA, and Frank Ocean.

Trending

Coolest Places To Fill Your Growler (While Supporting Local Breweries)

One of the things Michigan is most known for is our breweries. And nothing beats the delicious taste of a cool beer from one of our favorite breweries. With the addition of growlers, we can enjoy our favorite beers from our favorite local breweries from the comfort of our own home. We live in a

Project 206 continues to push the limits of jazz with new ‘Volatile’ EP

Project 206 masterfully melds freak-out jazz sensibilities with progressive rock tendencies on their instrumental, four-track sophomore EP, Volatile.

Venue Spotlight Series: The Ark

All live music venues are vital. That’s our starting point for this series. The stories we’re sharing here demonstrate that local establishments hosting performances by local musicians should never be taken for granted— particularly in a post-pandemic world.  When it comes to the Ark, you could argue that there’s been a dedicated constituency that has

The Truth About Human Trafficking: Local expert Bridgette Carr dispels common myths and offers real solutions

The phrase “human trafficking” can conjure up terrifying images of teenage girls being snatched up at the local mall— a problematic misconception about the realities of human trafficking.  Bridgette Carr, director of the University of Michigan Law Human Trafficking Clinic, explains that “buying into this type of narrative is harming those who are actual victims