Recently, I tried out for my school’s slam poetry team. I hadn’t even known that our school had a slam poetry team until the very last day of tryouts, so you can imagine that I was a little bit frantic. At lunch, I ran to the room that someone had told me the tryouts were being held in, got told to return after school with a tryout piece ready, and spent the rest of the afternoon agonizing over whether I should use an old poem I’d already written, or try to spin up something new in the approximately two-and-a-half-ish hours I had. I ended up going with the former option, and chose a poem I wrote back in January, called ‘God’, which you can read here.
I edited what I could of the poem, and practiced it silently in my head, trying to imagine what a slam poet should sound like. I’d never done any sort of slam poetry before, and didn’t know if there was a time limit (yup, 1-3 minutes), or if I was supposed to memorize it (nope, not mandatory, but preferable). After an intensely stressful afternoon, I went up to audition with my arguably rather controversial poem, tried not to drop my notebook as I was turning the pages, and gave it everything I could muster. As it turns out, everything I could muster wasn’t too shabby, because I received an email a few days later confirming my spot on the team!
Our school is participating in a provincial slam poetry tournament next month, and I’m kinda sorta really feeling the pressure. Though I’m not too sure how our school’s done in past poetry slams, I want to do well this year. Poetry is important to me. Saving my school’s face is important to me. Plus, I’m a competitive person when it gets down to it. Combine that with a fragile ego (working on that thick skin) and an unhealthy fear of failure (also working on that), and you have someone who will do just about anything to try to win. And, y’know, beyond wanting to win, I want to learn a thing or two from the experience. At the very first meeting of our school’s poetry club, I met some really great, artistic, poetic people, like-minded people who are easy to get along and collaborate with. It’s always great fun to bounce ideas back and forth with them at the weekly meetings, so I can only imagine how many more cool people there’ll be at the slams. I can’t wait to be inspired by everyone’s poetry!
To prepare for the slam tournament (ahhh, tournament, just thinking about that word makes me want to throw up from excitement and anxiety), I’ve been watching videos of other slam poets. It’s so striking how much meaning and memorability these poets can contain within a time limit of 3 minutes. It’s at once unnerving and empowering to hear them revealing their deeply personal stories and experiences, and what is most admirable about this is that these poets are turning their fears and pain into an art, raw and beautiful. Not only do they express their own thoughts and experiences, they somehow manage to turn them into sources of universal truths that ring true with so many relevant issues that many other people face.
The following people have massively inspired me to look at poetry, and what I can use it to express, in completely new and amazing ways. They’ve emboldened me to put more of myself into my work, to write about the things I am afraid to voice, and eventually, come to voice these things in front of a crowd of people. They’re storytellers, motivational speakers, people demanding to be heard, and shoulders to cry on, all in one.
I hope that they inspire you, too.
Got any amazing slam poems that you love? Feel free to send me a link in the comments, I’d love to listen to them!