The Power of Young Words
By Kaitlin McManus
This past Thursday, on the twenty-sixth of May, the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room at the Falmouth Public Library was the scene of an art show filled with words. Over sixty students from Lawrence School, along with their friends and family, gathered to perform their own original poetry for the fourth annual Lawrence School Poetry Slam.
A poetry slam is a contest that revolves around spoken words. The poet with the ability to mold words into stories and images is the most likely winner. Poetry slams first appeared as a sort of open mike gathering in which people would present their personal rhymes. These early forms of poetry slams eventually became what is now the modern slam. The poems performed at this local slam involved everything from the heartbreak of the hurt inflicted by a family member or the death of a loved one, to comic escapades on Cape Cod golf courses. The vast audience, many viewing from outdoors through the windows, cheered loudly for all the contestants. The atmosphere was one of kindness, encouragement, and sheer joy!
Seven judges were seated at two tables across from each other with the performing poet in between. After each performance, judges held up a scorecard with a number from one to ten, ten being the score to strive for. This year’s volunteer judges were Becky Kirk, Shawn Woods, Eva McNamara, Katrina Totten, Naomi Weekes, Lynne Carreiro, and James O’Brien. The judges each had preferences; some liked rhyming poems and others enjoyed the personal feelings belted out by the poets. Two emcees, Molly Bagg and Cameron Costello, introduced each lyricist and kept the night rolling along.
Seventh grader Jack Koss started the evening off with his slightly humorous poem titled “Basketball.” Regarding the rest of the event, he said, quite simply, “It was a lot of fun,” which is a reaction that most people shared. Another comical poem followed, along with many which were very personal. So personal, in fact, that poets and audience members alike shed a few tears in reaction to the sometimes tender, but often raw, words.
At the end of the night, ten out of the sixty participants were claimed as winners. First place went to Ruth Fuller for her poem “Dispensable People,” a heartfelt piece about the flooding of the Mississippi River. KJ Weber was given second place for his poem “Cape Cod Clubbing” which had the judges and audience laughing until the last word. Olivia Beaton won third place with her brilliantly crafted poem Pet Peeves. Fourth place went to Sara Buscher, and fifth to Christian Muxica. Sixth was Chris Parkin, and seventh was Francesca Schofield. Eighth, ninth, and tenth places were awarded to Alex Yarosh, Jacy Howes, and Savannah Braley. The prizes were donated by the Library and Eight Cousins Bookstore. In response to her win, Ruth Fuller said, “After I heard all the good poems, I really thought I wasn’t going to win. I thought that some of the people were really tough, but when they got up there and they just let everything out and cried in front of everyone, I thought that was very powerful.”
The turn out for the Slam was more than could have been asked for. The meeting room at the Falmouth Public Library was completely filled, and the number of participants was more than double last year’s slam. After the Slam was concluded, Olivia Beaton said, “It was really fun and I loved how enthusiastic the audience was, and it made it a lot easier to perform my poem. I think everyone who participated did an amazing job, and if you didn’t go, you should go next year.”
In school we listen to and read poetry, but the words on the paper can seem foreign to us. Students wonder, sometimes not so nicely, why we study it at all. By the reactions of the people who either participated in or watched the Lawrence Poetry Slam, it sounds as if poetry is alive and well spoken in Falmouth!