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High school students compete in slam poetry

from The Bulldogger

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“Last spring I read an article in the North Platte Bulletin about the Ogallala High School slam poetry team and the success in the competition and [I] mentioned it to Syble and it went from there,” said Heather Heffernan, the North Platte High School poetry team’s sponsor. The team started at the beginning of the year with 11 girls and the club has opened opportunities none of them could have imagined until now.


The club now has 14 members and four who compete in the slam poetry competitions. Heather Heffernan said after she had heard about Louder than a Bomb, she called the head of the competition Matt Mason . He set them up with two coaches, a UNL professor and student.


“They have a whole curriculum, and as soon as you contact them and show interest, they contact you. If you’re serious, all they are really looking for is a commitment about competing,” said Heather Heffernan. The curriculum is based around slam poetry, which is different from poetry studied in school. Senior Alisha Starner said, “Writing regular poetry is probably easier because you can use metaphors and symbolism. You can write as much as you want. But, then when is comes to slam poetry, you have to get your point across, be relatable, and have a good performance.”


After preparing and practicing for about six months, senior Syble Heffernan, freshman Anam Vaziri, sophomore Hannah Fitzpatrick, and Starner participated in the Louder Than A Bomb competition on March 21. The girls said the competition was exhilarating and a once in a lifetime experience. “Being on the stage and meeting new people that felt the same way, it was better than writing it and just practicing it” said Fitzpatrick.


“When he assumes my innocence is an invitation for experience,” is a line in Fitzpatrick’s, “Looks Do Not Define Me.” “I wrote [my poem] in one setting, scribbling fiercely all of my feelings. Something happened to me, and I realized I don’t want my appearance to be the first thing people notice,” she said. Throughout their poems, the girls covered a variety of vulnerable and raw topics such as body image, racism, mental illness, politics, society faults, and more. Starner said they received a writhing prompt about jokes that weren’t funny. “Everything that you witness on a daily bases that people joke about, that really aren’t funny,” said Starner.


On Tuesday, April 4, the poetry club had their last competition of the year. They placed fourth at the State Semifinals. They said the atmosphere was much more intense; they were on a bigger stage in the Joslyn Art Museum and every team was spot on with their poetry. “It was incredible being in an art museum, because it reminded us that even though things were so competitive, we were there to create art,” said Heather Heffernan.

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