This year’s all-school poetry slam from perspective of performer, journalist

Poet Harley Brousseau performs in the library. Their piece for round one expresses concern for how indigenous people’s struggles are being treated. (Sebastian Gracie Fultz)

In the eyes of a poet, the tension of the question “who is first?” is undeniably painful.

Every year in April, we have an all-school poetry slam, which consists of anxiety, triumph and the constant personification of words. It’s run by the school librarian Nancy Sullivan. Students sign up on a form and are randomly selected to perform by a fish bowl drawing.

During this poetry slam, I wandered back and forth between photographer and participant. I saw performers’ similes, metaphors and rhymes through a camera lens.

Freshman poets Elgin Fossen, Harley Brousseau, Ren Danehy and Ja’siah Clay watch a fellow performer. Usually snapping can be heard throughout a performance as clapping is too much of an interruption. (Sebastian Gracie Fultz)

An audience and judges sat in front of my eyes, while I ripped off my tongue through a mic. It was terrifying.

Being judged for your poetry really depends on what your poetry is about. You have a lot of poets talking about trauma, and it feels super weird that people are judging you for how well you perform it.

Judge Armin Tolentino sits at the judges table scoring an “8” during the all-school poetry slam. Poets are judged on tone, engagement, time and overall execution. (Sebastian Gracie Fultz)

It gave me a deeper understanding of what they were trying to express. Specifically, to the phrasing of their words, I heard them through my ears as a fellow performer, but when I took photos of them, I felt and captured that emotion behind them. 

I highly recommend for people who don’t like poetry to understand what we are trying to portray: insecurities, pain, humor and livelihood.

Poetry slam winners: first place Ren Danehy, second place Onyx McElroy and third place Princess Fletcher. Winners will have a chance to represent McDaniel at Verselandia, the district-wide poetry slam, and are given prizes. (Sebastian Gracie Fultz)

Three winners emerged: Ren Danehy, Onyx McElroy and Princess Fletcher. First place winner Danehy and third place winner Fletcher then went on to a district-wide slam competition, known as Verselandia, held in the Arlene Schnitzer Hall downtown.

Musicians Dawson Bellingham and Hayden Hardy play guitar during intermission. This fun, snack-filled time allowed people to converse with poets about their performances with some background music. (Sebastian Gracie Fultz)

Thank you to Sullivan for making these slams a true highlight of my high school years, and stay poetic, McFamily.