The annual Bedford Poetry Slam last Thursday included both an open mic and competitive performances, judged by BHS teachers, as well as many activities such as blackout poetry, magnetic poetry, and a heartfelt community board to share your feelings and what you needed to hear at that moment.
The event was hosted by Jamele Adams, a nationally known poet and slam performer who has helped run many BHS Poetry slams and has close ties with the school community.
The night was filled with inspiration and comradery over a shared passion for using words as a vessel for expression, as many talented BHS students performed emotion-filled and creative poems.
The top three performers were:
- Aleksi Dubaquie-Sanchez (1st place)
- Bridget Sheahan (2nd)
- Sage Fleet (3rd)
Also competing were Anjie Chen, Sharanya Vaidianathan, and Arwen Fleet. Healy Weisman, Micah Harfield, Julia Dacayanan, and Carinna Dogan-West all performed in the open mic.
The top three placed performers were rewarded with the journal “Write Yourself a Lantern,” which collaborates with Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel in verse “The Poet X,” and the book “Above Ground,” a collection of poems by Clint Smith.
The winner of the BHS 2023 Poetry Slam, Aleksi Dubaquie-Sanchez, had a strong stage presence and delivered his pieces with raw emotion and conviction. This is his second time competing. Last year, he won as a freshman. With both his poems he discussed very relatable problems -in “Blink,” the frustration with writer’s block, and in “Complacency,” how many adolescents have grown complacent and believe it is not cool to care and that being average and unoriginal is the most desirable.
His poem “Complacency” expresses that finding yourself and being proud of your talent is necessary to figure out your identity, and should not be seen as weird or shameful.
Aleksi urges people “to be yourself and find people that are going to accept and celebrate who you are.”
From the second Jamele Adams took the stage, it was evident that he is extremely talented at creating a contagious energy and bringing people together. What stood out about the night was the supportive, close-knit celebratory atmosphere that he cultivated. It was emphasized that every performer would be positively encouraged and their bravery to share something so personal would be applauded.
In between poems, Jamele led community bonding activities encouraging everyone – the audience and the performers – to get up, mingle, and talk with each other and to express the amazingness and appreciation of every individual. This made the slam such a positive and memorable experience for everyone in attendance.
Jamele also performed three of his own poems, “We Do This,” “Books?” and “Clean,” his precise and purposeful diction and stage presence completely captivated the audience’s attention.
Jamele said that poetry is so important to him and intertwined in every aspect of his day. He said to him, poetry means “life, freedom, voice. Poetry conveys the temperature of someone’s identity at a particular point in time.”
His relationship with his work and expression through the art form, in general, are “inexplicably connected. We are one in all aspects of the universe, and the universe connects all poetry and poets together” and the words on the page themself “have lives.”
Since 2005, Jamele has made poetry a part of his career and not just a hobby. He realized he had to give more time and energy to his true passion as he could no longer diminish or hide, switching on and off his identity as a poet.
He shared that as he stopped disconnecting elements of his life from one another, he found that “poetry and work life could coexist and I gained more freedom and enhancement in life.”
Jamele is most dedicated to “bringing people together and spreading love” through his work. When hearing younger poets perform at the Slam, he is very excited and impressed “with the future, courage, and evolution” of slam poetry. He said that “young people are doing things that we have never done before and are using new words and styles.”
It’s exciting to see the evolution of this art grow and expand, allowing youth to find ways to create pieces in a nontraditional way, able to produce something genuinely authentic, without needing to conform to any rules and guidelines.
This authenticity and uniqueness were definitely present in the poems performed the other night as all students developed their own styles and talked about a variety of topics that were meaningful and personal to them.
Bridget Sheahan is a student at Bedford High School.