Finding a rhythm

Recently, slam poetry has made a bigger mark on society than ever before.


Makayla Bowen

National Youth Poet, Laureate Amanda Gorman, helped peak interest in slam poetry after she made an appearance at Biden’s inauguration.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I’m not much of a poet.

How about you?

I’ve spent years dreading the acrostic poems, haikus, sonnets, rhyming verses, and limericks that every English class seems to require. Even reading poetry like Robert Frost’s iconic “The Road Not Taken” simultaneously bores and confuses me. Why not just walk down one of the paths, turn around, and walk down the other?

But, recently a different form of poetry has taken off. While it’s been around for years, slam poetry is more popular now than ever and serves as a much more entertaining and relatable poetry experience for kids and adults alike.

On Biden’s Inauguration Day, while at first, all eyes were on the security of the president and the possibility of protestors, after his successful swearing-in, the focus shifted to 22-year-old National Youth Poet, Laureate Amanda Gorman.

Standing behind a podium on the steps of the United States capitol, Gorman recited her poem “The Hill We Climb,” captivating an audience full of political powerhouses, including three former presidents.

Within her piece, Gorman paints the picture of a country that many know, but very few can put to words. And, though it might not be the most conventional form of poetry or public speaking for that matter, it cannot be denied that Gorman’s poem certainly left a mark, later appearing as a hot topic of discussion on many inauguration day news events.

The poem’s final words “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it,“ provide an important reminder to a nation that has recently been through a lot, from a global pandemic to a rather turbulent election.

In addition to receiving attention in the media, slam poetry has also made a recent appearance on the TV circuit. Season 15 of America’s Got Talent featured its first successful spoken word artist. Brandon Leake, after receiving a Golden Buzzer from Howie Mandel, went on to win the season and a one million dollar prize.

Upon reciting a poetic tribute to his deceased sister, a poem about racial injustice, and pieces addressed to his father and daughter, Leake made history and brought the slam poetry style to a whole new audience of listeners. 

Slam poetry is finding its place in school as well. At CFHS, ninth-graders write a series of poems throughout the year, with the culmination being an original slam poem, performed in front of their fellow classmates.

Cal Vande Hoef, who teaches the class, originally added slam poetry to the curriculum 10-15 years ago for two purposes “Part of it is to teach the basics of figurative language so that they (the students) can use it in speeches and in writing to do more than just write. The other purpose of poem is to learn how to edit.”

Though the slam poem does help with these two things, Vande Hoef expressed that it goes beyond that, helping people to open up and become more confident going into bigger projects and speeches later in the year.

Now a sophomore, Jessica Baszuro performed her slam poem last year, and though she didn’t love performing, she does enjoy listening to poetry, saying that “I have a lot of respect for people who are able to express their thoughts effectively and confidently through slam poetry.”

Slam poetry is a unique art form that can have a powerful message if done well.”

— Teagan Strecker

Teagan Strecker, another sophomore who previously performed the poem, shared Baszuro’s sentiments, “Slam poetry is a unique art form that can have a powerful message if done well. However, I am not a poet or a performer, and personally prefer to stick with regular speeches,” she explained.

While slam poetry has been around for a while, the unique literary art form has recently made a claim to fame through Amanda Gorman’s performance at the inaugural address, as well as her recent presentation at the Superbowl.  Not to mention, Brandon Leake spread the word with moving presentations that eventually won him a title as AGT champion.

Though CFHS students aren’t performing on a national stage, the slam poetry experience, as stressful as it can be, gives them an opportunity to not only learn a little, but to try something new.

Vande Hoef, who enjoys poetry outside of the classroom, summed up the slam poetry experience, referring to Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” by asserting that “When it (poetry) resonates like her poem did, that’s what poetry is.”