“Own your words,” advised Slam and Jam organizer Cory Davidson to youth poetry slam participants. At the second annual spoken word event held Feb. 27 at the Homer Council on the Arts, that’s just what the poets did.
Though competitive, the poetry slam focused on allowing students to express themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal. Many of the topics covered were personal, dealing with the pressure and stress of growing up. Teens read poetry about relationships, sex, peer pressure and drugs. Though these topics would often be considered taboo for teenagers to discuss, the Slam and Jam offered a safe and non-judgmental venue for their discussion.
Sponsored by the Homer Council on the Arts, the second annual poetry contest was open to young adults ages 13 to 21. Nine participants shared their spoken word poetry before an audience of nearly 30 people. The competition was divided into three rounds. After each contestant recited their work, the crowd would snap their fingers in applause and encouragement.
Davidson, 36, hosted this year’s Slam and Jam. Davidson works for Homer Flex High School as well as the South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services.
“I wanted to create a safe after school environment,” Davidson explained while discussing the origins and goals of the Slam and Jam. In 2013 the spoken word poetry group Brave New Alaska Voices came to Homer and held a week-long seminar. The Anchorage based group focuses on empowering youth to find and use their voice with spoken word and poetry slams.
“After they left I wanted to keep the fire alive and… [continue] doing the poetry slams,” Davidson said.
Slam poetry is poetry recited out loud to an audience who rates the performance. The diverse participants included a first-time performer who was new to poetry as well as a previous poetry slam winner. At one point three poets performed together as a single entry with a three-part piece. Many had been working on their poetry for months before hand. Several poets were still putting the final touches on their work before taking the stage.
By the third round only three participants were left, including 17-year-old Maria Kulikov who would win first place.
Kulikov’s poetry focused on her own life experiences, fitting in and taking care of her younger siblings.
“I draw inspiration from emotions,” Kulikov said after the event, “just something that you feel so passionate about, you don’t have to think of the words, they just burst out of you.”
Kulikov is a student at Vosnesenka High School. Outside of her poetry, Kulikov spends her time volunteering. She donated her time to both the Future Farmers of America and the Kenai Peninsula Youth Court, where she helped at risk teens.
Later this month, Kulikov will be receiving the Young Woman of Distinction award from the South Peninsula Haven House in recognition of her volunteer work. The award is given to those who demonstrate outstanding leadership in their communities and schools.
“I don’t know how to describe it. Volunteering to me just feels natural. I just like the thought of being able to go out and help people,” Kulikov said of her experience volunteering.
While Davidson encouraged participants to express themselves freely and honestly, he emphasized taking responsibility for their words.
“Whatever you say, make sure you own those words,” Davidson said at the beginning of the slam, “Make sure that you mean what you say.”
Not all topics covered were controversial, however. Kulikov charmed the judges this year with her poem about the frustration and fulfillment of caring for her younger siblings.
Most importantly for the students and poets that participated, the second annual Slam and Jam offered a fun and safe environment to express themselves.
“The main thing is to empower the youth…to give them the voice to say what they want,” Davidson said.
For him, it’s important for Homer to have positive after-school activities for kids.
“To keep them out of trouble and away from at risk situations,” Davidson said. “I think it’s important to channel that energy and passion into something positive”
In the future, Davidson hopes to reach more young artists and poets of all ages.
“I didn’t do any advertising this year for it,” he said. “Everyone that came here (heard) through word of mouth. I’m excited for next year and I really think it will have a positive impact.”
To all the little demons in my life.
…And by that I mean my siblings.
When I hear the words “God, you’re so lucky
to have little siblings”
Pass through the mouth of an only child
I feel like screaming and going wild.
What’s lucky about always having your stuff ruined the second you look away?
Or having your only wish be “God, I wish they would listen to me at least for a day!”
Or finding out they got past the lock on your door.
So they could look through your stuff, make a mess, break something, and so much more?
Hearing the words “you can’t tell me what to do” coming from the lips of my 10 year old little sister…
Is about as lucky as getting a blister
Because it’s twice as annoying
And unfortunately it’s illegal to get rid of her.
My little brother who’s eight can still pull off crying if he doesn’t get his way.
And my mom believes him more
no matter what I say.
And yes! Twins are adorable!
Unless…you have some as siblings in which case they’re deplorable!
– by Maria Kulikov