The poetry slam represented the SAAS community in a way that no single poem could.
There were 26 students who competed against each other by reading poems. They each faced a panel of judges consisting of students and faculty who gave the poets ratings out of 10. Highest and lowest scores from each poem were dropped to even out the scores. Then the average was taken from the remaining scores. One’s score compared to the student who they were placed against was what determined who would go onto the next round.
Students could write multiple poems or read the same one multiple times. Over the course of five days, a winner was determined, and winning meant the exemption from the spring final exam for Conner’s 11th grade English class.
The slam did not feel like a competition. The competition aspect fell away when kids started opening up to their peers with the honesty that only poetry could provide. There was no inappropriate laughter and no disrespect. Hopefully no one was expecting any less than full support, but shaky hands and tight voices prove how hard it can be to perform and share personal information with your peers.
The support each student got from the audience made me realize how easy the SAAS community makes performing. I understand now exactly what “the culture of performance” means.
Conner inspired her poets to perform at a professional level. Issues like growing up, racism, depression, sexism, alcoholism, self confidence, and religious discrimination were voiced by the passionate speakers. Beyond an exemption from the final, kids were performing to tell their stories and the stories of those they know.
Poetry lets people say things they otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t. Stories were loud, strong, and sharp, as well as calm, poignant, and touching. Regardless, every poem that was read took immense bravery and incredible skill.
Congratulations to everyone who competed and came to support. Second place went to Alexandra McGraw, Sarah Cohn placed third, and Jake Green finished fourth. The winner of the competition was Claire Karch, who will be exempt from spring final. I hope to see a lot more come to support next year.