The show must go on: Online tools help keep poetry slams alive The show must go on: Online tools help keep poetry slams alive
BY RYAN MERARD As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on today’s public life, many extracurriculars such as sports teams and school clubs have had... The show must go on: Online tools help keep poetry slams alive

BY RYAN MERARD

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on today’s public life, many extracurriculars such as sports teams and school clubs have had to completely stop. However, CCHS’s Poetry Club was one of the few programs able to continue their scheduled activities online.

Poetry organizations are staying alive during this time of social distancing with the help of technology. April is National Poetry Month, so open mics and workshops were planned to take place all across the nation. Most of these events have gone digital so that poets are still able to share their talents during the pandemic.

Louder Than A Bomb Florida is an annual youth poetry slam for students from the state. The program usually gathers about 300 students from 32 different schools and is held in a theater with other poets as judges. Due to the pandemic, the organizers of this program decided to rewrite the script.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be the same, the world is not the same right now but the passion behind those stories is the same,” Louder Than A Bomb Executive Director Seth Levit said.

“They made it work the best they could and I am truly happy about that.”

Members of CCHS’s Poetry Club had to submit videos of their poetry performances in advance. Then, multiple judges joined together to give scores on the video conferencing app Zoom, with the participants’ videos playing on a screen. These judging sessions were livestreamed on Facebook and Instagram for other students and poets to see. 

The contest ran from the end of March until mid-April. There were preliminary, semifinal and final rounds for both teams and individuals. 

Expected to perform as if they were at the slam, the student poets incorporated the same amount of passion and seriousness in their videos to give themselves the best chance of winning. However, having the participants submit their work online took away the feeling of having a live audience in front of them. Whether or not this factor being removed helps a poet or makes them feel uncomfortable all depends on the individual.

“It felt a little nerve-racking to make sure I had a video where I could be heard without any issues,” member Vanessa Arocha said. “It was a little weird to perform to a camera instead of seeing people I know. However, it did help me to be more confident.”

“Our goal was to make sure the kids did not lose one more thing.”

While some poets may have found more comfort in recording their videos individually, there are also others that had some trouble with the virtual process.

“It was hard because the whole submission process was confusing and I felt limited. We did not do our group poems because there was no way to ensure unified lines,” Co-President Ali Bennet said. “They handled the whole situation … really well, considering the self-isolation. They made it work the best they could and I am truly happy about that.”

While the participants of these online conventions do not receive the feedback of a live audience and the fellowship of being around other students, there was something that the pandemic could not take away from them: the ability to create their best work and share it with others to be judged. 

“Our goal was to make sure the kids did not lose one more thing. They’re not in school, they’re not seeing their classmates, they’re not going to athletic competitions, debate competitions, they’re [going to] lose their prom and Gradbash, but they did not lose Louder Than a Bomb,” Levit said.

Photo by Anabella Garcia

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