Review: TeenWord Poetry Slam

Ani Mathison, Staff Writer

Art is a tool for storytelling. Unlike many other artists, poets are unable to take advantage of costumes and dance routines to share their stories. Poets rely on their choice of words and their limited, but powerful, body movements that enable the story to come alive.

The slam poetry competition took place on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Teen Center, and gave the opportunity to a total of 25 poets, from 12 high schools around the state, to express themselves through poetry. The poets’ performances were given a score by the five judges, including Brookline’s Poet Laureate, Jan Schreiber and high school librarian Shelley Mains.

The evening started late, but in the meantime, attendees ate burritos from Anna’s Taqueria, chips, cookies and ice cream. Senior Josh Grossman, who developed the event in 2013 along with the high school’s slam poetry team, started the show by introducing himself, the judges and the poets. 

“The audience should sway the judges, but the judges should not be swayed by the audience,” Grossman said, describing the scoring process. The lights dimmed, leaving only a spotlight on the microphone.

The night began with senior Jaime Serrato-Marks from Brookline High School. The poem, “Human Sacrifice,” told the story of how the poet’s sister does not take the art seriously. Though the poet’s message was serious, he was able to sneak in some funny lines, such as, “I’m One Direction Without Zayn,” which received snaps and appreciative laughs from the audience. Serrato-Marks’ highest score was an 8.9.


Senior Jaime Serrato-Marks performs at TeenWord. Arianna Iavarone/Sagamore Staff

As the night continued, Abby McCarthy from Wayland High School performed an untitled poem about coming out as queer. The poem was about comparing a girl that the poet had a crush on to Hazel Grace from the book The Fault In Our Stars. The poet then shared her appreciation for beanies, and makes comparison to the book series Harry Potter and how she belongs in all of the Houses. McCarthy received a 9.0 for her performance.

Sophomore Nick Sturman, from Brookline High School, shared the poem “Windows.” The poem was about memories, windows to the past and the power of “sharing your soul with anyone who will listen.” His body language, facial expression and tone were powerful and resounding. The highest score the poem received was a 9.2.


Sophomore Nick Sturman performs at TeenWord. Arianna Iavarone/Sagamore Staff

“Growing Up In the Hood,” by Charlie Lake from Newburyport High School, was a serious poem about childhood and school violence. Lake was passionate during his performance. His highest score was a 9.0.

Another very serious poem was by Andrew de Sou from Grub Street High School called “Reminded That I Was A Mistake.” This poem was very powerful and talked about overcoming an abusive childhood.  The poet spoke about wanting to be better than his father and that he didn’t believe in “discipline with love.”

Throughout the night each poem was unique in its own way. There were many different styles. The audience was engaged, and yelled, “Listen to the poem!” when they believed the judges scored unfairly.

The night finished with Grossman announcing the winners of the competition. In first place came Kofi Dadzie from Westborough High School who performed a piece called “Rap God.” In second place came Dubem Okafor from Urban Science High School, followed by Agnes Ugoji and Topei Sholola. All the winners received a prize from the Brookline Booksmith.

Each performer was able to share their own experiences and ideas in a supportive space during the TeenWord event. Each poet told their story through their words, movements and tones, leaving a mark on the stage and the audience.[/fusion_text][/one_full]