Lane’s slam team debuts new talent at competition

By Marissa Higgs


Before the competition began, the kids sit close together in Lane’s auditorium brainstorming haikus. Constant laughter and semi-inappropriate jokes flow from them and it could appear strange that these people have only been working together this closely for a few months.

On Saturday Jan. 18, Lane’s slam team hosted a friendly spoken word competition put on by Young Chicago Authors (YCA). Lane’s almost completely new team has been preparing for it since the beginning of the school year.

Earlier this year several students waited in Ms. Meacham’s classroom running over their prepared poems in their minds and nervously thinking about the outcome of their tryout.

One of these students was Bailey Boyle, Div. 652.

While she has been writing poems on and off again for as long as she can remember, this was going to be her first time on Lane’s team.

“It was intimidating at first but then [I got] a sense of community,” she said.

Not everyone at the auditions had been poets for as long as Boyle.

“I have hated poetry since birth until sophomore year and one night in sophomore year a friend of mine showed me three poems by Andrea Gibson,” said Grace Barry, Div. 477. “I was crying like baby by the third one and then I spent the entire night looking at Andrea Gibson. Since then I’ve branched off.”

Now Barry enjoys poems by several poets.

Barry wrote poems occasionally in her creative writing class and wanted to join the slam team last year but felt she was too much of a “wuss” to tryout. When it was time to tryout for the 2013-2014 team, she was ready. She performed a poem about teenage girls using the word “like.”

“Ms. Meacham would give commentary and make us repeat things again so she knew we could change our performance coaching,” she said. According to Barry, this was an important part of deciding who would make the team and fill its available spots.

Eight students total make up this year’s slam team. Along with Boyle and Barry, Nia Robinson, Div. 584, Elise Rivkin, Div. 564, Gates Daniel, Div. 576, Kaina Castillo, Div. 475, Kamil Lungu, Div. 665, and Noah Barron, Div. 462, are all participating members.

Only three members from each team would have the opportunity to perform their individual poems at this competition. Collectively it was decided that Castillo, Barron, and Barry would perform. Three rounds later it was time to total each teams’ overall scores.

“Listen to the poem!” the crowd in the auditorium shouted to the judges giving scores under an 8.6 because the observers felt the poet deserved more points. It was a competition unlike most others. The competitors were cheering each other on.

The judges play an important role, but what qualifies the judges is a question even the poets cannot seem to answer. Lungu insists that judges do not show any bias toward any particular schools.

“Basically, [they] pick people out of the crowd,” Barry said. “They” meaning the people who work for YCA and put on these poetry slams every year.

One thing most of the members will agree on is that they enjoy discussing important topics in their poems. Often they will write about things going on in their lives or in society.

“I guess I like complaining…if it exists I’ll complain about it [and] even if it doesn’t exist I’ll complain about it,” Boyle said.

Several “touchy” topics were mentioned at the competition including racism, education, family life, relationships and many others were brought up in hopes of sparking debate or discussion.

During the Haiku Death Match, the final round of the competition in which four members or so from the top scoring four teams read different haikus to decide the winner overall, one girl said,

“slam poets, the worst

thing to ever happen to

abusive parents.”

Lane’s team was unable to make it to the final round. This did not discourage them or keep them from cheering on the other poets. It was an opportunity for the members to reflect and figure out where they had room for improvement as a team.

“I think we just need to write more material…you can’t edit nothing,” Barry said. “[Also] we need to stop being hard on ourselves.”

Although the team did not win the competition, they are excited to be working together and are already writing poems for the next YCA competition in February called Louder Than a Bomb where these young slam poets will continue light-heartedly joking about what it is they truly do.

“I mean aren’t we all just slow rapping?”