The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper

Arts and Entertainment

American High School Hosts Poetry Slam

By: Staff Writer Lillian Zhao



On Friday, May 2 at American High School (AHS), over a hundred students, teachers, and parents gathered for the first annual Poetry Slam, hosted by the AHS Writing Club and the AHS Class of 2017. The cafeteria was set up to emulate a coffee shop, jazzy music was played for ambience and coffee and pastries were sold. Over thirty AHS students performed, with the performances lasting anywhere from ten seconds to five or six minutes. AHS teachers who judged the event scored on both delivery and content. Before the first performance, the emcee explained that finger snapping would substitute for clapping. After each performance, as well as sprinkled throughout, enthusiastic snapping would ensue.


Poem topics ranged from test anxiety to significant others, from OCD to aspirations, and even a letter to College Board by Julia Jen, President of the Writing Club. Jenna Mack shared an untitled poem about the great and lasting memories that come with having a friend with cancer. Kristen Campos captured second place with a plea, “To the Man in the Moon” enlightening the crowd about societal definitions.


However, the performance that managed to capture first place was “OCD” by Junior Elias Kamal.  Kamal’s poem gradually escalated and managed to enrapture the entire audience. “My life is full of repetitions, counting in order. One side walk crack, two side walk crack, three side walk crack-GUM-one side walk crack …  They say home is where the heart is. But every time I leave home I lock the door seven times, tie my shoes five times, and straighten the doormat. But every time I leave home I leave my heart too.”

IMG_2217Vice President of the Creative Writing Club, Junior Disha Dubey said, “This is American’s first poetry slam we’ve ever done. It was difficult to coordinate because we were starting anew. But the turnout was great and I’m just really impressed with the outcome and what happened. I’m really proud of the council for planning this.”


The night built up a serious, impassioned climate as poets started to gesticulate more, some quite dramatically. As Freshman Owen Farmer said, “I especially liked the man who went up and ripped his script up in half and screamed ‘dreams’.” At the end of the night, there was an open mic session in which anyone in the audience could spontaneously go up on the stage. Four brave speakers went up and tried their hand at the poetry slam. Overall, a great audience turnout in conjunction with plentiful and talented poetry slammers made the night worth it. Judge Ryan Howard said, “It went well, we’re setting up for a bigger success next year and hoping other schools can compete in a district wide poetry slam.”

Listen to some of the performances here:

Photos: Staff Writer Lillian Zhao, Courtesy Class of 2017 and AHS Writing Club


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