“This is for my emotional people,” began senior Chris Melvin, “I am talking emotional, like blown away the first time you remember at age five hearing Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ because to some people a moment like that wouldn’t really faze them, but it’s times like that that remind me that life is a beautiful thing.”
Four students from each Shawnee Mission high school, not including SM South, qualified to compete in the District Poetry Slam that took place last Sunday at 6 p.m. at Shawnee Mission Horizons High School. Along with Melvin, juniors Andrew Beasley, Elizabeth Mergen, and Wil Kenney qualified from SM East.
Each student had the chance to perform one poem after which a panel of judges chose the top ten.
Mergen performed “Semantics”, a poem she wrote while in Writer’s Workshop. She was excited to have made it to the district competition as the only first year participant from East. She believes that her experience with Forensics helped her have the confidence to perform her poetry.
“I think the Poetry Slam is a lot better [than Forensics] because I’m able to perform my own words, not something that someone else wrote,” said Mergen.
Melvin performed “I Have Pride”, a poem he wrote about his unsuccessful experiences with girls during high school, while Kenney performed what he calls “a jumble of teen angst”.
“My favorite moment was seeing that all these kids have the courage to open up to total strangers about things close to their heart, librarian and SM East Poetry Slam organizer Chris Larson said. “Everyone was respectful and encouraging to everyone else.”
Melvin, Beasley and Kenney all made it to the final round where they were able to perform one additional piece. Melvin’s performance of “Emotional People” earned him first place in the competition.
“I think that it was really effective because it combined the hallmarks of what makes poems generally effective,” said Kenney. “It was emotional, funny and was performed well.”
“Chris was very honest with what he felt about certain issues, said Larson. “He had practiced and prepared and it was smooth, flowing and he just did a great job.”
Melvin credits his experience with rapping and his ability to plan out his delivery so that the audience can understand the theme he is trying to get across to helping him win.
“It’s rewarding in the sense that you get to perform something you did for people and see how they appreciate it,” said Melvin. “You have the ability to change how people think.”
Additionally, SM East team of Beasley, Mergen, Kenney and Melvin won third place.
Larson believes that the event is a great way for poetry to stay contemporary and unforgotten. She is positive that it will continue in the future – good news for Kenney and Mergen, who have already begun to plan their poetry for next year.
“Sometimes it can feel like people are just performing a regular staple poem,” said Kenney. “They have defaulted to that and it can be like listening to the same poem over and over. I know that I want to do something original.”