Poetry Slam Reflects On Their 2020-2021 Season

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Andrea Espino

The 2019-2020 Poetry Slam team.

By Andrea Espino, Staff Writer

Poetry Slam is a team at Niles West that meets every Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon. The first 15 minutes of the meeting usually consist of catching up with the members and chatting. After that, there’s a free write that the sponsor, English teacher Paul Bellwoar, prepares every week. If everyone is intrigued by what’s coming out of free write, they’ll explore it. If not, then they’ll branch off and work on solo pieces and/or group pieces. The team will write them, polish them and practice delivery.

Poetry Slam is vital for the Niles West community because there are no clubs that can compare to this one. Their goal as a team is not to share misery but to improve their writing. “What we create is intended to be funny, emotional, meaningful but never outwardly depressing or obscure,” senior Anthony Avram said.

“This year, there’s been less emphasis on solo pieces since Louder Than A Bomb, the regional poetry slam, was canceled. In previous years, by February, we’re usually forgoing the free writes and practicing solos or group pieces every meeting,” junior Dharma Delahanty¬†said.

Throughout their time together, the team works on solo poems for the regional poetry slam competition Louder Than A Bomb. They perform their poems live on stage and get scored by judges to advance in the competition. They are either working on their pieces with the help of their coach or are practicing and performing them.

“Mr. Bellwoar helps create a nonjudgmental environment, so nobody is afraid to get their ideas out and try new things to help create pieces. I also like the community outside of our own group,” junior Anastasiya Lukan said.

They often do this process over and over for hours until they get the poem just right. They also take advantage of their time together and use the space to share thoughts and feelings on pretty much anything in life. They come together to share their experiences and stories that are worth telling. The benefit of telling them in that space is that they can create personal and authentic pieces that no one has heard before.

This year, there was an informal slam on May 4, but the date wasn’t official until late February and early March. As a result, for most of the year, the team worked on writing for the possibility of there being a slam. However, they all enjoy writing for the fun of it, so they didn’t mind one bit.

Many local schools got together for a Slam via Zoom and there were about 30 participants in total!

Since slam season is during the springtime and is over now with the May 1 slam completed, many of the members were able to use the time and accomplish their goals for this season. The members are also happy with how the season ended and are thankful for the opportunities they were given.
One of the goals Delahanty had was to have a finished piece by the end of the year, which she accomplished. She wanted to help her teammates grow as writers since the seniors did the same for her when she became a new member.
With all the accomplishments came obstacles for Poetry Slam, one of them being unable to meet in person this year. Although it didn’t affect them greatly, because most of their time is spent on free writing and solo pieces, it still would’ve made their time more enjoyable.
“I’ve become very close to my team over the years, and everyone who’s committed to Poetry Slam is one of my best friends. I trust them to know the real me. I wish I could’ve spent more time with my team in my final year because I miss things like our field trips and other times we would hang out together. But it hasn’t mattered too much to me because these people are my best friends, and I’m going to see them and talk to them whether we meet in person or not because they’re important to me,” Avram said.