Slam.

Hazel O'Neil and Kanako Fujioka

On March 15, around 150 students, teachers, parents and friends gathered in the Craft theater to witness the preliminary round for the Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam and hear some of Community High’s incredibly talented poets. The readers competed for a chance to perform at the Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam finals, which will be held at the Neutral Zone on March 28.

teachers poetry slam est 1
Community High teachers Steven Coron, Judith De Woskin and Anne Thomas watch the slam. Thomas loves the variety of style at the Community Slam. “I think that students are profound at this age and their voices have a lot to offer us,” said Thomas.

Twenty readers in total were competing for five slots in the finals. With such a limited number of slots, the judges certainly had a difficult time choosing, as the poems were very diverse and all the poets read from their unique perspective. Each reader was scored out of ten points, and eleven of the highest scorers would read again in the second round.

Judges for the evening were: Carlina Duan, Beth Johnson and Emma Hamstra from VOLUME Youth Poetry Project; Kerry Fingerle, CHS alum and 2012 Poetry Slam champion; and Lauren Zuniga, celebrity judge of the evening and author of “The Smell of Good Mud.” Jeff Kass, beloved Pioneer teacher and literary arts director at the Neutral Zone, moderated the slam.

Freshman Clara Kaul reads for the first time at the CHS slam.
Freshman Clara Kaul reads for the first time at the CHS slam.

The only rules of the night were that the poet had to present an original poem and keep their performance under three minutes long, although the latter rule was not entirely enforced. The audience was also told to be respectful, but this proved to be a moot rule- the crowd cheered wildly for every poet, and booed at any score given that was lower than a nine.

The readers were almost exclusively CHS students from all grades. Some had read before, but for several, this was their first time. Eleanor Olsen, a freshman at Community, was encouraged by her friends to read at her first poetry slam. Ellen Stone, head of the CHS Poetry Club, also visited classrooms to persuade closeted poets to participate and bribed them with homemade cookies.

While the night consisted of many incredible performances, by the end of the evening the five finalists chosen were: Rianna Johnson-Levy, Erez Levin, Isaac Scobey-Thal, Amelia Diehl, and winner of the night Rachel Kerby. Both Johnson-Levy and Kerby earned an exceptionally rare score of a 10.

Senior Erez Levin reads his "Conquest Part LXXIII," a poem about a former dragon slayer who is having a midlife crisis. LEvin is going to the finals on Thursday, March 28.
Senior Erez Levin reads his “Conquest Part LXXIII,” a poem about a former dragon slayer who is having a midlife crisis. Levin is going to the finals on Thursday, March 28.

Competitors included: Carson Borbley, Clara Kaul, Alice Held, Leon Pescador, Caitlyn Fisher, Casey Belcher, Isaac Scobey-Thal, Amelia Diehl, Erez Levin, Lang Straud, Liv Edwards, Rianna Johnson-Levy, Dan Chapman, Jacob Johnson, Eleanor Olsen, Eli Rhodenhiser, Rachel Kerby, Brittany O’Neal, Meghan Napolitan, and Adrian Joll.