Slam poetry team’s seven year tradition gets slammed

Josh Cohen

For the past seven years, the slam poetry teams from Drake, Tam and Redwood have gathered in mid-May to perform and compete in the annual Tri-School Poetry Slam Competition. Due to complications with the Drake and Tam teams, the competition did not take place this year.

According to coach Alex Franklin, the Tam coach contacted Redwood explaining that there was no available venue for the competition because the theater program director was in Europe.

“The Tam coach suggested doing a different venue, which would be less competition-based and just more celebratory poetry over at a bookstore in San Rafael,” Franklin said. “Drake’s team just never materialized. They didn’t get an interest from poets.”

Slam poetry team gathers for a picture.
Slam poetry team gathers during their normal meeting time: Thursdays at lunch.

According to senior co-captain Stephanie Oh, Redwood’s team wanted to have an open mic event instead of the competition, but decided not to.

“Since it looks like we are definitely not having a competition with any of the other schools this year, we just really want to do something that both showcases our art in a competitive environment and some of the other talent Redwood has got,” Oh said. “We just wanted to drum up interest for next year’s team because a lot of us will be leaving.”

At first, the team was disappointed about not having a competition with Tam and Drake, according to sophomore Davis Bason-Mitchell. However, Bason-Mitchell said that not having a competition will give the team a chance to discover how they can improve creatively as poets by continuing to practice.

“Our poetry is made to show and express what we are as a team. We’re trying to celebrate slam poetry,” Bason-Mitchell said. “The open mic event would have shown Redwood High School what a slam poetry team is, that it isn’t just some ragtag group of teens.”

According to junior co-captain Ali Janku, the team still meets every Thursday to share the poems they have written and critique each other to improve their writing.

“A big part of slam is continuing the practice of writing throughout the year, so we aren’t going to stop,” Janku said. “The most important thing we do here is keep up the discipline of writing frequently and through that practice your writing improves and so does your poetry.”

Junior Natasha Arnowitz agrees that it is beneficial that the team still meets every Thursday, regardless of no competition looming.

“It is just really nice to be in an environment that is open-minded and artistic without having the element of competition,” Arnowitz said.

This open community is part of the reason why senior Jeremy Goldwasser encourages new poets to come forth and share their poetry at tryouts in the beginning of next school year.

“I think what distinguishes slam poetry writing from other kinds of writing is that everything that you do is written 100 percent in your own voice,” Goldwasser said. “Unlike in an essay, for example, where you need to fit in pretty rigid guidelines, slam poetry is entirely your ideas, your creativity, your perspective, and so I think that the poems do a very good job of revealing and developing one’s character as well as expressing what is important to one’s self.”