Sam Klein/Sagamore Staff
Slam poetry can be as creative as a novel, as vulnerable as open wounds, scarier than any tangible danger and more soothing than years of therapy. Room 387, which is home to the Slam Poetry Club every Thursday, is a place where these feelings cultivate.
The club offers a unique environment in the high school where students can feel safe, supported and open, while simultaneously practicing an art form that they love.
Freshman Jordan Diaz, one of the club’s newest members, said that while performing can be scary, speaking about it can feel better.
“They all seem really trusting,” Diaz said. “I wouldn’t feel afraid to tell certain things to them.”
At the club’s meetings, students stand up and perform their work to an audience of their peers, who sprawl out on the floor and on top of desks.
As one member reads, the others listen. When they hear a line or idea they like, they snap to let the reader know. Then, once the reading is finished, the other club members praise and criticize the work.
The club’s adviser, Mary Burchenal, said that one of the goals of Slam Poetry is to send the club as a team to spoken word competitions, such as Louder Than a Bomb.
However, according to Burchenal, she and the founder of the club, senior Josh Grossman, prioritize the supportive infrastructure in the Slam Poetry Club rather than focusing on the competitive aspect. This way, developing poets get equal attention to the more well-versed.
“It was more important to create the community that you see here than it was to ‘get the team in shape’ to win the competition,” Burchenal said.
The topics of the poems can vary greatly. Some are tributes to teen angst, discussing unrequited crushes or the pressure of school. Others go much deeper, sharing personal stories about depression, anxiety or self-harm.
Sophomore Bailey Méndez Rainey said that the other members of the club are understanding people.
“What happens in 387 stays in 387,” Rainey said. “If you really don’t want people to talk about that issue, they won’t talk about it.”
Rainey, who had depression and anxiety in the past, said that poetry was an effective coping skill for her.
“If I could physically get it out on paper, I would know what’s going on,” she said.
According to Rainey, performing a poem for the first time can be a terrifying experience.
“They were all juniors, they were all older, it was very intimidating,” Rainey said. “So it was one of those things where I just went for a leap of faith.”
Senior Alex Chin said that he feels comfortable with his peers in the room.
“When you’re there, you feel like you can talk about anything,” he said. “It’s very comfortable, and it’s very diverse, too, so I think that helps.”
Chin said the differences in the club’s members strengthens the community, causing people to come together who may not otherwise have met.
“When you look around, it’s not just one color, it’s not just one gender; it’s a mix of faces, it’s a mix of personalities,” Chin said. “People like different things, so the conversation is always interesting. There’s always something going on every time we meet.”
Rainey said that being part of the club helps her feel empowered in her daily life.
“I definitely think it’s helped me become more confident, not only as a writer but also as an individual,” she said.
Chin also said that being part of Slam Poetry has built up his confidence.
“It gives me a sense of belonging. You feel like you belong there in the club, and you carry that with you outside the club,” he said.
According to Chin, members are still striving to better their craft despite their already talented works that have gone through the club’s creative process.
“There’s a lot to be done on my part,” Chin said. “But after that, you know, with practice, as you get used to performing in front of people, it’s exhilarating.”