Originally posted on the NBC 5 Streeteam here: http://nbc5streetteam.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/slams-sans-snaps-young-chicago-authors-louder-than-a-bomb/
I’ve never actually asked a performer directly if snapping at poetry is world’s longest-running false cliché — it very well might be. I hope so… I’ve never ever learned how to snap. Thankfully, my inability to perform simple motor skills did not ruin the weekend.
The non-profit Young Chicago Authors organization held their annual Louder Than a Bomb Chicago Teen Poetry Slam, and the crowd was all screams, claps, laughter, cheers and occationally, when a crap judge (like me) gave a low score, chants of “LISTEN TO THE POEM!!!”.
“Listen To The Poem”, I quickly learned, is a sort of a LTaB mantra the kids relish to holler out at lowly judges. Hey… it’s better than flat-out booing. And, as the slam MC’s would continually remind us, it’s not about the points… it’s about the poems. Regardless of what was written on my little dry-erase board, the poems were inspiring.
A few years ago my pal dragged me to Louder Than A Bomb finals (at The Metro that year), and the raw talent and collective energy of the show was infectious. So, when the slam came back ‘round this year, it took slightly less dragging to get me to help out. Eventually (and God knows why) I wound up in the front with a little clipboard, one of five judges ready to rate a “bout” — praying I’d be able to recognize a good poem if and when I heard it.
The opposite occurred. I was so blown away by these kids and their fearless self-expression, exuberance, rhythm and rhyme scheme. I was like, the entire bouts’ proud mother — clapping too long and too loud for everybody who had the guts to take the Columbia stage.
With the semi’s completed earlier this week at The Hothouse, all that’s left is the Cream of the Crop: Teams from all around greater Chicago verbally jousting it out at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus (3201 S. State) tomorrow (Sat 3/10) at 8pm. I HIGHLY recommend checking out the bouts… if only for the sheer energy and lack of snapping.
In the meantime, check out Chicago Public Radio for soundbites from last year’s winners