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Stay youthful, listen to the poems at Louder Than a Bomb

Youth poets speak for themselves
Photo provided by Louder Than a Bomb

Chicago’s 12th Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam is filling the air with truths, written and presented by some of "the best and the brightest" among Chicago's youth. The Young Chicago Authors sponsored festival continued preliminary bouts and events, Sat., March 3, at the Chicago Cultural Center. Semi-finals and individual finals continue throughout the week, and the festival culminates with team finals set for Sat., March 10, at the Vic Theater.

Festival schedules, ticket information and volunteer inquiries are available online at LTAB sponsor Young Chicago Authors (YCA).

Volunteer Director Mairead Case has been busy assembling more than 200 volunteers and counting. Tickets to Robbie Q. Telfer’s Encyclopedia Show http://www.encyclopediashow.comand other artistic performances and workshops are part of some of the incentive perks for volunteers who put in a certain amount of hours.

LTAB was founded in 2000 by poets Kevin Coval, YCA Artistic Director, and Anna West, former YCA Executive Director, to give Chicago youth ages 13-19 from schools and community groups a way to express themselves and gather in a safe space. Competitors progress through various bouts, and winners will go on to represent Chicago at the national level.

At preliminary college bouts held Friday, Feb. 24, at Columbia College, writers took the stage individually with stories to tell through words, compositions, spoken word literature, and hip hop artistry.

Judges Cecilia Benitez, Sladjona Vuckovic, Danette Chavez, poet Il Rapture, and Eric Waller assembled in the first row at this college bout. Scoring would be a little bit different for the college slam than for the high school students in early preliminary bouts.

It takes courage to get up in front of the crowd and bare you soul through your words. But the main thing in either level slam is consistency, their trainer, Jose, said. Scores would be given on a scale, with a “sacrificial poet” to set the bar. While the collegiate would usually have more of a performance presence on stage, the emphasis is mainly on the writing, he told them.

Il Rapture said she thought the college poets are more mature as poets. “The high school poets come in ... all heavy, and lay it on the line. The college students feel more at home. There is more of a performance element, and use of the stage.”

Not to mention listening to the jabs by host of this college preliminary bout, Tim Stafford.

Stafford, a junior high school teacher by day, started the bout eliciting audience response with, “If you’re ready to meet the first poet, then say ‘yes!’ ... If you’re ready to meet the first poet, say ‘yes, indeed!’, if you’re ready to meet the first poet, then say ‘Get off the stage little man, let’s do this!’”

And the audience cooperated.

“The lower your score the higher your chances that I’ll start singing,” warned Stafford.

The audience reminded judges to “Listen to the poem!” as scores were revealed.

Topics ranged from academic vs social pursuits, personal crises, commentaries on life, love and, everything else, delivered with impressive stage presence and word combinations, emotion and sincerity, humor, showmanship, and characterization.

Stafford is a graduate of Columbia College's poetry program. He has edited a spoken word poetry book that is appropriate for children and adults.

Coval is in “L vis Lives!” at the Victory Gardens Theater, based on his book, L-vis Lives! Racemusic Poems. He teaches writing throughout the city of Chicago. Coval grew up listening to Hip Hop, playing basketball, traveling by train throughout the city in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, as he puts it, “... to create a culture that has brought the city together, based on the same organic model of the Zulu nation in the Bronx, and of course, Saul Alinsky.”


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