Collinsville High School held its 7th Annual Poetry Slam on November 2, 2017. The event is sponsored by the CHS Library and Writing Center.
Seven Collinsville High School student-poets competed for the opportunity to participate in Slam Lab — a 20+ hour experience where youth poets from throughout the region gather monthly through February 2018 to “refine their poetry writing process, enhance their performance skills and improve their leadership ability.” Slam Lab is part of UrbArts Youth Poetry Slam, a year-round spoken word poetry program for youth between the ages of 13 & 19.
Slam poets personally perform original work in a poetry slam. According to CHS, “The focus of a poetry slam is not exclusively the written word, rather, it is a celebration of the art of oral interpretation and performance with an emphasis on the interaction between the poet and the audience.” The genre is known for it’s social commentary and edgy topics.
During a Poetry Slam, oral poets are scored by a panel of judges. The 2017 CHS Poetry Slam judges were teachers Rosie Dodson and Talisha Chambliss, along with MK Stallings (founder of UrbArts) and two UrbArts poets.
When the first CHS Poetry Slam was held seven years, ago it was attended by a small group in the school’s library. It eventually moved to the auditorium in the school’s Performing Arts Center to accommodate the growing crowd of interested students. This year, students had the option of attending all or part of the three-hour event held in the middle of the school day.
In addition to watching poetry performances, attendees learned tips from CHS drama teacher Rosie Dodson about warm-up and relaxation prior to a performance or presentation. Audience members had the opportunity to create and read their own “Imitation Poem” with encouragement from CHS English teacher and poetry slam MC, Katrina Knebel.
In addition to Knebel, the 2017 CHS Poetry Slam was coordinated by teachers Talisha Chambliss, Cheryl Martens, James Stark, Kristine Blair and librarian Tracey Schmidt.
Knebel is sponsor of the CHS Writing Club. She encouraged students to explore their own creativity by utilizing the CHS Writing Center for feedback, joining the Writing Club and submitting work for possible publication in the Kahok Ink literary publication.
MK Stallings said CHS poets have much potential. He said high school students typically need to “Let down their cool filter. Let themselves be vulnerable and authentic.” He actively coaches CHS students and other local youth on how to improve presentation.
CHS poets benefit from their association with UrbArts through participation in the VerbQuake Festival, as well as other workshops and experiences throughout the year. CHS students Olivia Felty and Keana Fox were finalists in the 2017 St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate competition, which officially named them Poetry Ambassadors.
UrbArts was founded in St. Louis in 2001 to “create platforms and platform creatives for youth and community development. The animating idea behind Urban Artists Alliance was the concept of ‘social arts’ where poets, writers, actors, musicians and visual artists would create art that would reflect the conditions and possibilities of their communities.”
2017 CHS Poetry Slam results: First Place – Junior Keana Fox; Second Place – Senior Olivia Felty; Third Place – Junior Ronyae Harris-McClure.