LHS First to Offer Letter in Slam Poetry

LHS First to Offer Letter in Slam Poetry

By Morgan Fleener The LHS Slam Poetry Team is back after winning two state championships back to back, and Lincoln High recently became the first school in the nation to offer a varsity letter for Slam Poetry. “That’s my baby!” Slam Poetry Sponsor Deborah McGinn said, “We’re brand new in 2012 and I see kids

By Morgan Fleener

The LHS Slam Poetry Team is back after winning two state championships back to back, and Lincoln High recently became the first school in the nation to offer a varsity letter for Slam Poetry.

“That’s my baby!” Slam Poetry Sponsor Deborah McGinn said, “We’re brand new in 2012 and I see kids work so very, very hard with one another, individually, and they won the state championship two years in a row, and the first year got third place. They deserve to have a letter!”

In order to get a letter, you have to attend a number of performances. You have to be on stage and perform at least once or twice, and you have to make final stage. You have to always be supportive of other people and your team members and you have to be on the actual competition team with nine people.

“My favorite is that when you’re at a tournament you have to ask consent before you give somebody a hug. You can’t just run up to someone and say, “I loved your poem,” or “Here let me support you!” You have to ask if it’s okay,” said Slam Poet Tiauna Lewis.

The Slam Poetry Team contacted the creator of Slam Poetry, Marc Smith, about being the first school to have a letter for slam poetry and he said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of, lettering in poetry! Go Links!”

“there are nine people on the competitive team.” Lewis said, “What we do is we write pieces, whether it be individual, duo, trio or four person group pieces, then we rehearse, and rehearse, and rehearse, and edit, and revise. We perform at various tournaments in Lincoln and Omaha with Louder than a Bomb Great Plains.”

Louder Than a Bomb is a youth poetry festival that originated in Chicago and was featured in an self-titled documentary. It aims to increase poetry appreciation through participation.

So, what is slam poetry? “Slam poetry is around to shake up the world. To educate the world with language. Language and ideas and metaphors and similes and personification and persona and all of the literary things we learn on worksheets, then these students can use their talents in writing and polish and revise them into little gems of perfection and then shout them out to the world,” McGinn said.

McGinn has been teaching her creative writing classes about slam poetry since the ‘90s, so when they finally decided to start a team in 2012, English teacher and Slam Poetry Sponsor Sam Woog and McGinn had over 60 kids try out just because they’d been exposed to videos and the Louder than a Bomb documentary. “We had more kids than we knew what to do with!” McGinn said.

Tryouts start in January of 2015, and meetings are after school on Fridays. The students will try out with one individual three minute piece in front of a live audience. They perform in front of judges that McGinn hand-picks from the outside. The judges are writers themselves, and they know what slam poetry is and they know what to look for. “Mrs. Woog and myself do not judge because we’ve been working with these kids, you know, up until January for several weeks and we don’t want any bias. We don’t want anybody to say we picked favorites. We want to remain on the outside of that,” McGinn said.

Slam poetry has a lot of power in people’s lives, Tiauna Lewis said, “Slam poetry has definitely changed my life for the better. I started as a student coach when I was a freshman and continued as a sophomore. It really helped me with my writing abilities and my performance abilities being able to critique the poets that were on the team.” She got involved in the community of Louder than a Bomb Omaha which spans from small towns in Western Nebraska, to Council Bluffs and a lot of the midwest.

“To be involved in that community it’s really life changing because we’re all in it for similar purpose to share our stories on stage and to be there to support one another while we share vulnerable experiences and happy experiences and stuff like that.”

You can be a part of the team too! Tryouts begin in January. You can try out to be a part of the competition team of nine people, or be an alternate in case some people can’t compete. There is also a hype squad which travels with the team and they act as the slam poet cheerleaders. Or you can be there just for support. There are so many ways to get involved even without being on stage.

Greg Keller
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