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  • Conner Emery

Sylvain Thurman: Slam Poetry Star

Sylvain Thurman, a senior at CVCHS, will be competing at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Festival at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco on March 10.

Thurman is a member of the CVCHS Slam Poetry Team. He recently advanced to the Grand Slam Finals of the Youth Speaks Regional Slam Semi-Finals, and he is currently preparing for the international poetry festival. That being said, he noted “this is actually” his “first year doing slam poetry competitively (or performing slam in general)!”

“I don’t have stage fright by any means, nor is slam poetry something that makes me uncomfortable to do, but I still find myself having a mix of nervousness and excitement right before a competition,” said Thurman, speaking to his anticipation of the international competition. “However, I think it helps that I don’t do this to ‘win;’ competing is fun, and I do enjoy a nice competition every once in a while, but my primary focus going in is simply to inspire and comfort other people who may be there to listen to what I have to say.”

Thurman is new to slam poetry, though advocacy in their writing is not. “One of my favorite memories I have is from fifth grade when my school had a competition to write and present a speech on a social issue we thought was important to us,” he explained. “I did mine on bullying because, even as an elementary schooler, I knew that was the most urgent thing I needed to talk to someone about at that moment.”

At present, Thurman uses his writing to promote community and support for those struggling with mental health and exploring gender identity. “I just really want to be able to connect with other people who may be going through or have experienced the same things that I have as means of making them feel less alone.”

“My favorite thing about slam poetry,” he notes, “is just being able to write for other people about problems that I myself have struggled with. I’ve always been relatively open and honest when it comes to my mental health and other identity issues, so I try my best to use my writing and opportunities that I now have to speak honestly on those topics.”

Thurman has historically favored narrative writing. However, he appreciates the emotional connection afforded by slam poetry and he enjoys the framework of “writing about people and how similarly or differently we all think and interpret events in our lives.”

“While I’m primarily used to doing more novel-based writing/creative writing (especially in middle school, where I won my first ‘official’ award), I’ve always been interested in writing and competing in general,” he explained. “When it comes to advocacy, writing and making speeches is the format I find most effective for me and what’s most aligned with my personality.”

Thurman explained their view of slam is “to talk openly and honestly about your experiences in a safe and friendly setting. My advice to both myself for this next competition--and anyone else who wants to do or is thinking about doing slam—is to just be your authentic self and have fun.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is,” Thurman summarized, “that I really enjoy the community and sense of togetherness that comes along with slamming.”

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