Young poets from all over the state of Michigan have come together in a poetry slam competition to be “Louder Than A Bomb,” and it is not your typical Shakespeare poetry.
Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) is a yearly, two-day high school poetry festival in which youth poets from across Michigan are invited to compete, participate in workshops, and experience slam poetry from authors their own age. The event is produced by InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit with help of many sponsors.
LTAB 2019 was the event’s fifth year, which took place on the weekend of April 27-28. To register to compete, students must be ages 13 to 19 and have a team of 4-8 people (A group poem is required to compete).
Cass Tech’s senior Deena Allen attended for the first time this year. The Cass Tech poetry club performer expressed the joy and fun she had at the event.
“It was amazing. … I really like that there (LTAB) you can just feel safe and be who you are without judgment and it’s so freeing,” she said.
“I’ve been a poet all my life… I finally acknowledged it around 2012 and it’s when I realized it was the best way I can try to express myself,” Allen said.
She said she enjoys being able to share her work with other poets, especially those in the poetry club, because “you can express yourself and make people happy.”
She said performing is “a rush of anxiety and happiness to say the least. It’s like the perfect rollercoaster.”
Brianna Smith is a poet by the name of “Smitty,” and is a senior at Cass Tech. This is her third year performing at LTAB, and she said she loves the event.
“I love the positive energy that never ceases to exist … it’s never about the competition, it’s always about sharing and opening up and welcoming others,” Smith said. She has identified as a poet since the sixth grade, after a creative writing class taught her the importance of her words.
“I realized what I could do with words then, and not long after that writing was all I had to express my own feelings and process the things I was going through,” she said. “It’s been with me ever since.”
Smith is part of Cass Tech’s poetry club and likes to share her writing with others. She said performing poetry has “always been a nervous experience,” and explained how performing can feel intense.
“I have never been completely calm performing, but that’s a good thing,” she said. “It means I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone.
“I enjoy writing because through writing I heal, honor, and grow myself. I am constantly finding out more and more about myself through my writing. I perform my poetry because there may be someone out there that needs to hear what I have to say. I also perform to honor myself, and to build confidence in explaining myself to the rest of the world.”
Allen, Smith and all the other poets who attended both days of LTAB started with breakfast at 8 a.m., a time were youth got to meet and talk. After this, they had the opportunity to attend writing workshops to focus on things like improvisation, identity, and activism in poetry.
On Saturday, the first two rounds of slam bouts took place in Wayne State’s Student Center. Here, individual poets performed their pieces and were scored by judges selected from the audience. Then each team concluded with a group poem. Poems varied from topics like a loved one to protesting against gun violence, depending on what moves the poet. Cass Tech finished in second place both slams, although everyone was encouraged to “cheer for the poet, not the score.”
The day ended in Manoogian Hall, where participants had dinner and then took part in the MC Olympics. In this part of the event, performers went on head-to-head battles and were “challenged” to perform freestyle poems based on keywords from the judges. Although this is not taken into consideration for the final slam, many youth stayed to enjoy seeing poets exhibit their skills.
On Sunday, the final slam with all the first-place teams took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design. In this last part of the competition, poets brought out their strongest emotions and their loudest voices to express themselves. Cass Tech won “The Spirit of the Slam” award for their outspoken support and praise to all performances. Even after a Youth Poetry Slam team was declared the winner, the celebration and congratulations continued.
Allen said she’ll continue to write poetry, since “it’s the only get away I have and it’s the best way I can be me.”
“I definitely am going to keep writing and performing because it definitely helps me stay sane and creative,” she said.
The poetry club meets every Thursday after school in room 408. If you have any questions you can email Mrs. Rogers at Brittanyerogers@gmail.com.