Poetry was the point of a recent poetry slam event at Dutchtown High School.
The Dec. 11 event was facilitated by the school’s Spoken Word Club, created by English teacher Tamara Fuchs Empson and sponsored by the Forward Arts program and The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.
Slam poetry is a form of competitive performance poetry where people read aloud poems without props, costumes or music. After performing, they receive scores between zero and 10 from randomly selected judges. The highest and lowest numbers are thrown out, which provides the poet with a possible score of 0-30 points. Those immersed in the poetry scene often encourage each other to remember that “the points are not the point, poetry is the point” and to “applaud the poet, not the points.”
Several students performed with either memorized poems or poems read aloud from phones, most of which depicted current events or their own personal stories.
Christina Robertson won with 29.6 points.
Area poetry events often features workshops and special performances by local and nationally recognized competitive slam poets, such as Donney Rose and Chancellor “Xero” Skidmore who has represented Baton Rouge at the National Poetry Slam from 2000 to 2010.
Beck Cooper was the featured poet for the Dutchtown slam. Cooper has performed at Women of the World in New York and Southern Fried Poetry, which is held in Atlanta. Cooper’s writings focus on body positivity, feminism and self-worth.
Turning the negative comments into positive, Cooper recited an “eraser” poem, which is the recreating of a new poem from already written words and comments. By eliminating many of the hurtful words, she created a motivational piece to encourage students to have pride in their own appearances. Recent Dutchtown graduate and former slam poet, Chloe Bourgeois, attests to the benefits that the writing program has offered her. “It is absolutely wonderful for students to build confidence, meet new people and break out of their shell,” she said. Students joining the Spoken Word Club are given the opportunity to improve their writing skills by participating in workshops, organizers said.
“Empson tries everything in her power to make sure we have the tools we need to become better writers, better poets,” Bourgeois said. Senior Ameris Wilson, the host of the evening and member of the poetry club, believes in the strength of the program and is proud to be involved in something that can continue to thrive at the school.
“Slam poetry has really opened me up, and I think it can help those that are more introverted, like myself, reach out and become a part of something,” Wilson said. Students interested in joining the program can visit Forward Arts of Baton Rouge’s website at forwardarts.org.
Poets may get the chance to compete at All-City, a regional competition held in Baton Rouge composed of poets from local high schools. Individual winners at All-City will progress to compete on HBO’s yearly special Brave New Voices, that features youth poets from across the country.
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Editor’s Note: This story was changed on Dec. 8 to correct Chloe Guerin’s name.