Performing at the Battle of the Bay Poetry Slam

Imani Sherley, student
Thursday, March 27, 2014

As I walked into the room at the Berkeley Battle of the Bay Poetry Slam, I was instantly filled with excitement. The Dion was covered with dark red, blue, and purple light, while the space itself burst with people and food and conversation. Everyone at Woolman was pumped to be there, and extremely impatient for the show to start. Not only were we about to see a real poetry slam, but this slam was the qualifying round for the National Poetry Slam, so the teams were really going to throw down. I was especially antsy because I was performing in between rounds, along with other teens from a big group of students who came with their teacher.

So there we all were, seated in the first three rows of a crowded room in the dark evening, listening to people laugh and poets prepare, watching the musicians tune their Instruments on stage waiting for the MC to arrive. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he came running onto the stage fill of energy and enthusiasm. What came to follow was amazing. 

If anyone reading this has never been to a poetry slam, you ought to turn off your computer right now and go. It was amazing. There were poems about Black Kids and Dinosaurs, Love, Pain, Oppression, Race, Chess, Youth, and Parking Tickets. There were four teams total, and they were all great. The judges were random audience members, and our own Rob The Intern was one of them. He did a pretty good job (even though he refused to give higher than a 9.1). One team was called New Sh*t and some of their poems were only minutes old! As an audience member, it was amazing to feel what, and just go where, the poet wanted us to, and to be so intimately a part of their art and performance. We all has a great time, and at the end if the night, it really didn't matter which team won. 

Obviously the other really amazing part of going to the slam was performing at it myself. I was the last student to go after a long line of other teens who performed pieces that, in all honesty, were very clearly not meant for performance. The audience was supportive and kind but these were no up and coming slam gods or goddesses. Then it was my turn. Somehow that day I has managed to write a poem that was close to my heart, and decided to perform it. I had never done slam before, but I was well versed in theater. To be blunt, I killed it on that stage. Somehow I felt so safe and seen that spilling my ink heart to strangers felt freeing and natural. It was an amazing experience, and I loved it. After the show I was interviewed by a college show and I talked to a bunch of the competing poets. As proud as I am it was also a humbling experience. The poets I spoke to were amazing and extremely skilled, so their encouragement made me want to work harder to get to their level, rather than give me a big head. All in all, it was a great night.


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