The Warrior

Lane Tech’s poetry slam team blow away competition

Poets+Alexis+Gaw%2C+Keith+Spindle%2C+Xavier+Fraid%2C+and+Jolie+Mahr+performing+their+group+piece+%E2%80%9CKeeping+Secrets.%E2%80%9D+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Isaac+Manesis%29
Poets Alexis Gaw, Keith Spindle, Xavier Fraid, and Jolie Mahr performing their group piece “Keeping Secrets.” (Photo courtesy of Isaac Manesis)

Poets Alexis Gaw, Keith Spindle, Xavier Fraid, and Jolie Mahr performing their group piece “Keeping Secrets.” (Photo courtesy of Isaac Manesis)

Poets Alexis Gaw, Keith Spindle, Xavier Fraid, and Jolie Mahr performing their group piece “Keeping Secrets.” (Photo courtesy of Isaac Manesis)

By Jeffrey Taraszkiewicz, Reporter

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The poetry slam team is crammed onto the Red Line train.

While a trip like this isn’t abnormal for them, this was the teams first bout of the season.

Naomi Sanchez, Div. 861, decides to try something she has never done before. She performs her poem to those strangers in her car.

“I felt like a different person, but in a good way because I had my team around me to support me,” Sanchez said.

The poetry the slam team performs are not poems that they found online, but rather the life experiences each one of them has gone through.

On March 16, Sanchez performed in the finals for the individual category, also known as “indies,” at Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB).

According to Young Chicago Authors (YCA website, “LTAB is an annual event hosting over 1,000 youth poets for a month of Olympic-style poetry bouts, the event where they perform their poetry, workshops and special events. Students representing schools and community groups in the Chicago area perform original solo and group poems in a tournament-style competition.”

Becoming a finalist at LTAB did not happen by luck. According to Sanchez, the team tries to meet up every school day or at least three times a week for practice, which involves writing, reading, and performing. However, despite LTAB being a competition, the community present creates a unique aura Sanchez said.

The competition ‘Louder Than a Bomb’ is so open and accepting and a really safe space that when you’re on the mic you don’t really think its a competitive space; you just think you’re in a room full of people who have the same passion as you and you can just share your stories,” Sanchez said.

Mr. Telles, head coach, agreed with this sentiment. Telles takes care of the business side along with the development of literature. While he schedules the buses, does the paperwork, and makes sure that all the poems meet the criteria required for the competition, he also helps them find a beginning to what they write.  

“I always start it out with start with your heart and work out,” he said. “Tell your story, because that’s what ‘Louder Than a Bomb’ is.”

At LTAB, there are two preliminary bouts where four schools compete against each other to advance to the quarterfinals. This year, Lane scored high, placing in second in the first bout, but was able to take first at the second bout, qualifying them for quarterfinals March 7. The team then won and proceeded to the semifinals on March 11.

While Lane’s team performances, where four poets perform at once, did not make it to finals, Sanchez qualified and performed her piece “Red” at the finals.

Jonathan Cardona, Div. 850, performed multiple pieces himself at LTAB. Cardona, after trying multiple public forums, decided to try one more.

“I wanted to join slam so I can express what I couldn’t anywhere else.” Cardona said. “I remember trying out during the Open Mic my junior year reading a decent but low-key cringey poem about my charter middle school comparing the uniform system to my IEP.”

Cardona did not only find a place to express himself, but also a place where he learned about all the different perspectives people had, giving him a bigger perspective of his own.

Cardona also went through a transformation in his own writing. It shifted from large extended metaphors to writing simple, but powerful poetry.

By far the biggest thing I learned from slam was about writing poetry,” Cardona said. “Don’t write what your audience wants, write what your story is.”

Mr. Telles said that while it is nice that  “the poetry is almost secondary” to the team, the team is more than just poets.

“It’s a nice mix of kids,” Telles said. “They’re wonderful kids and they really love each other and they’re having a good time; that’s the part I love the most.”

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Lane Tech’s poetry slam team blow away competition