Poets and explosions

At first, there is silence.
A lone figure stands still, quiet and serious, in the front of a classroom, surrounded by intrigued peers.
Suddenly, with a burst of passion, Nola Stowe, ‘24, starts to speak, reciting her poem, asking others not to dictate how she plans her life
Stowe is one of five students that make up the WHHS Poetry Slam Team. The team consists of Stowe, Lauren Simon, ‘23, Zoe Cummings, ‘22, and SENIORS Mama Nije and Anabel Villanueva, making it the school’s first all-female Poetry Slam Team. The team’s coach is English teacher, Kyle Scudder, or “Papa Smurf”, as they affectionately call him.
Scudder has coached the team since 2014, when former assistant principal, Dr. Rashida Savage-Gentry, told him that she thought he should coach the Poetry Slam Team in a competition called Louder Than a Bomb.
Scudder finds inspiration in the students he coaches. “The poetry team inspires me to write more. And when they’re sharing their stories about their personal lives, it helps me because I’m a lot older now. I’m in my 40s and I’m thinking about everything I’ve been through as a teenager and then as an adult,” Scudder said.

Even as a listener, you can sit there and just let the words wash over you and let them bring up your own memories.”

— SENIOR Anabel Villanueva

He also thinks of the students’ writing as a form of history. “As a son, anything that I’ve seen that my mom has written is really important to me to have. [It is] something that is tangible and that I can keep and remember her and what she’s done,” Scudder said.
Poetry means something different to everyone, and it can affect one person in a variety of ways than it can another. Everybody has their own relationship with poetry. Stowe describes slam poetry as being “a combination of your words and your performance that makes that raw emotion that’s just really true to who you are.”

“Even as a listener, you can sit there and just let the words wash over you and let them bring up your own memories. With spoken word, you can just hear the words and you’re able to sit with them and think of how they connect to you,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva was approached by someone in her math class during her sophomore year who told her that she should audition for the Poetry Slam Team. She was intrigued, but didn’t write spoken word. However, the night before one of her family members died, she wrote a poem. Villanuevea eventually performed it at the memorial.
“[I] realized how powerful and healing spoken word can be, not just for the writer, but for the viewer,” Villanueva said.
For WHHS’ slam poets, creating powerful poetry requires inspiration, which comes in many forms. It can be an event or even a random occurrence. Either way, inspiration is a large part of writing poetry.
Stowe is inspired to write by “things that make me uncomfortable and things that are hard to understand. Just the enigma.”
Poetry can be performed anywhere and to anyone. Stowe performs outside of school at poetry slam competitions and at open mic nights at Women Writing for a Change. Both Simon and Stowe have participated in Women Writing for a Change as well.

[I] realized how powerful and healing spoken word can be, not just for the writer, but for the viewer”

— SENIOR Anabel Villanueva

This is the second time that Stowe and Villanueva have participated in Louder Than a Bomb and the first time that Simon has participated. At last year’s Louder Than a Bomb, the team won Gold in the team competition and the “Indy,” or individual, competition.
This year, they performed at the competition’s semifinals on March 7 at the University of Cincinnati. The team won first place in the school contest and first and second place in the solos contest. Cummings won first place in the solos and Villanueva won Second. Clark Montessori won second of all the schools.
The Louder Than a Bomb competition will be held on April 3 and 4 at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center from 7-9 p.m.“I would like to invite WHHS students in the community to attend… It’s great to have school support. It would be awesome to have students come support the team, because they work so hard. And it’s an exciting event to attend, whether you like poetry or not,” Scudder said.