Slam Poetry team places second in “Louder than a Bomb” competition

Photo courtesy of Nas Fair

Mia Chinni

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On Saturday, April 28, teams from 11 schools around the DMV area competed in the “Louder than a Bomb” slam poetry competition at Wilson. Any school from DC, Maryland, or Virginia can compete so long as their poetry team has three to six members.

Within the hourlong preliminaries were four bouts (rounds) that divide up the competition. Apart from Wilson, the teams from DC competing were Dunbar, Real Talk, and McKinley Tech, among other teams from Maryland and Virginia. Wilson competed in both rounds, however of the other teams, four competed in the first preliminaries, and five competed in the second preliminaries. The competition is sponsored by Split This Rock,  a company named after a line from a Langston Hughes poem. The company is dedicated to, “teaching, celebrating, and cultivating poetry that bears witness to injustice and invokes social changed,” according to the mission statement on their website. 

Wilson’s poetry club was started by senior Asha Gardner at the beginning of the 2017 school year. This year the team had 10 total members, however since Split this Rock limited the number of poets to six, not everyone could compete. To determine who would compete for Wilson the members had to slam off, and the top scorers made the team.

“The competition is a place for people to express who they are and what they believe, and I think it can be a perfect platform for both personal issues and social justice. Occasionally, people get lost in the desire to win and the hope for the best score, which is part of the competition process, but what’s most important are the stories,” sophomore Ayomi Wolff, a member of the Wilson team, commented.

There are three rules of slam poetry; there are no costumes, there are no props, and teams must stay within their given time limit, which is three minutes during the first three rounds and one minute for the last round. If any of these rules are violated, points will be taken off.

During each bout, there are five judges who grade poems using decimal points. They are selected based on impartiality, as no judge can score the same team twice. “We just look for judges who don’t know anyone competing,” librarian and mentor Pamela Gardner explained.

The judges score poems on performance, quality, and the performer’s stage presence. They also don’t hold up the scores during the slam, and instead reveal them after the bouts so that the poets can focus more. The lowest and highest scores are eliminated because those judges may be biased. After, the remaining team with the highest score moved up in the competition.

Poetry recited at the “Louder than a Bomb,” preliminaries can not be described as old school over-dramatic poetry reading, as it’s not read in a laid-back way and is focused on social and contemplative issues. However, it can not be described as rap either, because there’s no beat and oftentimes no rhymes. It’s all too real and intense; it brings awareness to racial injustice, social media addiction, gang violence, and many other topics. “Slam poetry is a form of poetry that doesn’t have boundaries for syntax but some on time limit,” Wolff said, “and… is used to express one’s emotion fully, and artistically it is completely subjective.” The slam poetry competition was an amazing outlet, and something one should check out even if they have no interest in poetry, because it raises the bar.

After the preliminaries, the high schools Wilson, Friendly, Wakefield, Blaire, and Hayfield competed at the Kennedy Center on May 6th from 5 to 7 p.m., in which Wakefield won first and Wilson came in second.