“The most significant part of the Poetry Slam for me wasn’t winning,” states Leila Gant ‘13. “What I thought to be most amazing was getting a chance to hear what people really had to say and what was on their minds through poetic spoken word pieces.” Over the past few weeks, the students in Lauri Conner’s 11th grade honors English class have been learning to appreciate poetry while simultaneously working on their own, original pieces. The work ranges from rhyming poetry, to spoken word, to short prose describing anything the students chose to write about. Many wrote about personal experiences and feelings, while fictional writing was also allowed. Recently, as the class came to the end of their poetry unit, a Poetry Slam was held in the form of a competition. The winner of the slam would be exempted from the spring final, a vocabulary test consisting of over 500 words, from the beginning of the year. With a serious prize at stake, every student was required to perform at least once in the Vanderbilt Commons. The competition took place over five days, with four days of preliminary rounds and then the finals.
Each student went head to head with another classmate and performed one piece of their writing for a randomly selected panel of judges, including students from other grades and teachers. After a performance, the five judges scored the students’ pieces from one to ten, most of the scores falling between seven and nine. The highest and lowest scores were dropped, and the remaining numbers added up to create a final score for the student. After both contestants had performed and been scored, the student with the highest score advanced to the next round. These first rounds took place from April 17 to April 24.
Semi-final and final rounds took place on Wednesday, April 25. Only eight poets were left in the competition, and they continued to perform against each other until there were only two left. Leila Gant and Alexa Strabuk ‘13 read their last poems before the judges gave their scores and awarded the finals “exemption.” Leila was the last one standing at the end of the competition. Her winning poem is included below.
Leila writes, “Alexa Strabuk is the last person that I slammed against in the competition, and her last few poems truly moved me. I was numb when I won by .1 of a point … because all I was thinking about [was] how strong of a poet she is and [that] working with her would be incredible. All the nerves, shakiness, and hours behind my laptop writing poetry and reading it aloud to my dog [were] all worth it.”
Just A Waitress by Leila Gant ‘14
How deep into situations can our minds function? I’m talking about those sticky situations. Where the odds don’t come out in our favor And we’re butted out of a conversation because We don’t know the flavor of the kool-aid…
But just because you’re in your own world, deep in conversation, Don’t assume you know the world of others around you Because the waitress that’s serving you in the café that you’re in right now, Knows all the flavors of liquid conversations that exist
The little waitress that no one pays mind to. They just pay the bill and occasionally tip her at the end of their meal. The little waitress that no one pays mind to. She listens in that café and it’s not like she tries to eavesdrop, But isn’t she allowed to pay attention when she hears knowledge being dropped By the people that refuse to acknowledge anyone outside of their cozy booths.
The little waitress that wants to butt into the conversation Because she knows the flavor of the kool-aid You can tell from just looking at her. Her lips, as red as the cherry stem that she had just popped into her mouth And tied in a knot, reminds her of how promiscuous she used to be And reminds her of the conversations she used to have staring deep into The green apple eyes of her boyfriend, while he stared back into hazel eyes that Were fiery orange with rage when he had to bring up the conversation about their relations. It’s over. Stop don’t say another word, suddenly she doesn’t wanna hear any conversations ever again.
She’s just that little waitress that no one pays mind to, waiting to be a part of a different conversation in that little café, from the people in the little cozy booths, in their own little worlds.