By Janina Rusiecki
It lies in the hands of the teens that participated in the 12 annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. The festival showcased teen poets ages thirteen to nineteen. They slammed against each other in front of a packed audience at the Chicago Theater on Saturday, July 18, 2009.
Kevin Koval, fellow Chicago poet was the cheeky host for the night. He began by announcing the rules. There would be four teams in the finals and they would include Leeds, England, Honolulu, Hawaii, Jacksonville, Florida and a team from the Bay Area. They were to go against each other in four bouts and they would receive scores from the judges. The lowest score was thrown out. Whichever team received the most points by the end of the night would win. The prize? Nothing. Well, maybe not nothing. The title of slam champion, exposure, and the envy of your fellow peers isn’t exactly what I’d call nothing.
The poems centered on various issues including genocide, racism, war, and oppression, but others were much more introspective focusing on the ideas of loneliness, self-loathing, and anger.
During the show several other teams had the opportunity to perform one of their pieces. These poems were incredibly powerful and I couldn’t believe these teams weren’t in the finals. Wendy Aceves, a member of the audience said, “I liked the poems by the teams that weren’t competing in the finals.” In the end the team from Honolulu, Hawaii won for the second year in a row, so congratulations goes out to them.
I learned that teens poets are not only thinkers, but they are incredibly courageous as they put their personal thoughts on the stage for the whole world to see. They are very much like every other teen I’ve ever met and even reminded me of my younger self. So many of the things they said resonated with me in a way I had long forgotten about until the night of the slam.
I found these teen poets were very idealistic. They truly believe that they can change the world. And they still have no idea how much work that will take, but they aren’t letting that get in their way – at least for now. And I love that. It’s refreshing.
Rhodia is proud to have been a part of this year’s event.