"Ugly Poetry Slam and Open Mic": a Showcase of Beautiful Student Writing
Line for line and beat for beat, Clayton Valley juniors, victorious in their class poetry slams, will challenge one another in the school’s first annual “Ugly Poetry Slam and Open Mic” Friday, April 15.
Juniors battled in class slam poem brackets throughout February and March to determine competitors for the slam competition. Each class anonymized their poems and narrowed down a final four through discussions, at which point the finalists conducted a spoken performance in pursuit of a nomination for first place or alternate.
Champions were subsequently charged with writing an additional piece, and this April, they will take the multi-use room stage in competition for a first place scholarship of $500, second place scholarship of $300, and third place scholarship of $200.
“I think we felt like students really enjoyed slams in class, and it felt almost wrong that these would only be shared there,” said Casey Gardner, an English teacher. In a “trial run,” phrased fellow English teacher Jenny Kadavy, juniors would serve as the foundation for the first school wide slam competition.
The scholarships associated with the event were also developed with considerable thought. English teacher Maureen Allan recently retired from the school—“a big fan of poetry,” noted Gardner—and the English department chose to dedicate the slam competition and scholarships in her honor. Teachers contributed the funds for the prize scholarships.
Altogether, emotions are likely to run high on April 15. Many students chose topics and experiences close to their hearts. Of his qualifying poem, Sylvain Thurman said, “I guess for me, my experience was different from other people. I interpreted a feeling vastly different from other people, so I wanted to convey that to an extent.”
Emotional charge can define a slam performance, but some students are approaching the event with a goal. Avery Baxter, another class champion, hopes the slam competition can be an opportunity to share their “creativity with the rest of the school.”
Come April 15, judges will decide the poetic finesse of junior slam poets and the depth of their performances.