Nebraska Stories | The Point is Poetry

(upbeat music) (laughs) (upbeat music) (crowd chants) GROUP: Sometimes we feel like we are sleepwalking through
18 years of this town. LADY 8: Rumors
telling us who we are. LADY 1: Waiting to leave. MALE: Waiting to go home. LADY 3: Waiting to come back. TEACHER: I just want you guys
to really think about, as you go up on stage,
I want you to remember, why did you write this poem? What is your favorite line? What are you hoping
people get from this poem? (upbeat music) INSTRUCTOR: Tonight, it’s
just your poetry. You’re in an empty auditorium, and nobody else matters
but you and your words. MATT MASON: Omaha Northwest,
let’s have a poem! Louder Than a Bomb is
a youth poetry festival with students from different
schools and organizations competing against each other
with performance poetry. It’s called slam poetry. LADY 1: Ogallala is not
a place for poetry. LADIES 2 & 3: We have
one coffee shop that doubles as a
Christian book store. MATT:] You read a poem, and then people in the
audience hold up scorecards. EMCEE: We’ve got a 9.3. A 9.2. We got a nine. MATT: It’s
basically a gimmick that makes the poet work
harder to reach the audience. Makes the audience work
harder to appreciate the poet. So you end up with
a poetry reading that’s got the atmosphere
of a basketball game. (crowd cheering) MATT: It’s a school year-round
program that works with kids on creative writing
and self-expression. YOUNG LADY: You hear the news, North Carolina high school
teacher fired for being gay, except for at first,
there are no headlines. MATT: We encourage people
to write poems about anything. YOUNG WOMAN (emotionally): My
baby crying will be the proof that I need to know he’s here. He’s alive. And he needs me. It’s difficult giving it every
time and not trying to cry. You relive it every time,
but it’s a beautiful piece. It’s a beautiful, it’s not a beautiful
experience, but it’s it’s an experience. Not everyone has to go through
it, but some can share it. (crowd snapping) MATT: We get stories
about home life. WOMAN RECITING POEM:
Sadly, for you, my father, my genetic generator,
my absent role model, you have lost your trophy. MATT: We get stories
about racial problems. LADY 1: Our heritage
is what we see when
we look into that mirror. LADY 2: I’m so proud of
who I’ve grown to be. LADY 1: Beautiful. LADY 2: Dark. LADY 3: Black. LADY 4: And lovely. GROUP: Mama says no
one can take that from me. MATT: Acceptance problems
due to GLBTQ issues. We get these real
stories from these kids that are kind of amazing. YOUNG LADY:
We are cosmic phenomena encased in heaps
of flesh and bone. The sunshine that is
in every living person is our proof that humanity is
divine, that it is celestial. Feel the incandescence that
dances from your fingertips. Love intertwined with
the blaze of others. MATT: We get the funny poems, the bizarre poems
that these kids who are just showing
off their creativity and really making
something beautiful. YOUNG WOMAN: Give me the plains where the warm breeze
and the summer rains with the sun of dead
leaves feels like home. (audience applause) MATT: It’s about writing
something meaningful, throwing it out there and
basking in the reaction. And the best part of something
like Louder Than a Bomb is that the kids,
they wanna win, but when a good poem goes
up, it’s every team cheering. POET: Justice. Three, two, one. EMCEE: Y’all
give it up for Skutt! MATT: Skutt Catholic was in
the finals last year. This year, it looked like
they weren’t gonna make it, but they pulled it together. LADY 3: And this poem is titled GROUP: Choke. MATT: They are a group of
really strong writers. LADY 3: In the sixth grade, it should’ve been easy to
counteract a bully’s quips with my own
bombardment of words, but instead, GROUP: I sat there
as she called me fat. Any possible comebacks
tangling themselves in a knot in my throat
like loose kite strings, they didn’t come undone until
I had found somewhere to cry. LADY 3: It was the first
time I learned what my own words tasted
like when I forced them down. MATT: The way they weave their
words together is just gorgeous. LADY 3: Can you hear all
of our being move? MATT: Ogallala
is a first year team, and so for them to
have made it this far is kind of remarkable. They’ve been hard to coach. We’ve had some coaches helping
them through Skype mainly, and now here they are in finals. LADIES 2 & 3: Whatever we
are, whatever we will be, LADIES 1, 2, & 3: Ogallala is
now, Ogallala has a voice. GROUP: Ogallala is here. LADIES 2 & 3: We are
here, ready to be heard. MALE: Ready for poetry. (crowd roars) MATT: Waverly’s been in the
finals the last few years. They are always a strong team, and always a little bit goofy. LADY 3: My first kiss was
comparably anti-climactic. He came at me… GROUP: Open-mouthed. LADY 3: I got scared
and turned my head. MATT: This year, they got a
little bit more of really serious poems, but
with these undercurrents of humor that they
just surprise you with. GROUP: We’re
writing to inform you what you’re writing isn’t real. It’s fairy-tale idealism, and
we’re tired of reading it. Let us give you an
idea for a character. LADY 1: Make her
a hockey player. LADY 2: Photographer. GROUP: Make her
trans, vulnerable. Make her suffer
from mental illness, beautiful and radiant,
and not defined by a boy. LADY 1: Make her real. (crowd roars) MATT: Duchesne
is an amazing team. They won the first year, but this year, they
were struggling to
get a team together. Here they are in finals. GROUP: She liked verbs. LADY 4: She oozed them. LADY 2: An orchestra
of action words. LADY 3: I remember hearing. MATT: The teacher who
sponsored us at Duchesne for the first four
years of the program is a woman named Kate Summer, and she passed away
this past year. LADY 3: She was the first one GROUP: who taught
me how to write. LADY 1: I was raw, GROUP: inky, a mess. LADY 4: And she made me legible. LADY 2: She made all of us
realize that writing GROUP: is the only remedy. LADY 1: Remedy for
sleepless eyelids. LADY 2: And stress. LADY 3: And futures too far
ahead to be found. (audience applause) MATT: I think a lot of
times, we discount, especially hear, oh, it’s
teenagers writing poetry. No, these folks are gonna
be published some day. The level of the
writing is so good. (slow piano music) MATT:
The points are not the point. The point is the poetry, because so many teams
could’ve been here on finals. MALE 1: Visions of bringing
change when I get older. Saving this place
before it’s over. Anger replace tears
when I’m alone. Forget the world for a moment. Allow my thoughts
to take me home. MALE 2: That’s why I’m
taking notes, ’cause we stand on
a white canvass. Though light skin is my color, BOTH: black is my heart from
the actions of others. EMCEE: There was one school that
really stood out for us, that really showed the
spirit of Louder Than a Bomb. GROUP: Omaha Northwest! JHEVAUN GRANT:
We not only fight ourselves
in the way we express our art, but also, we like to
listen to others’ arts, and also congratulate
them on being brave, and getting up there and
expressing theirself. EMCEE: 9.3. And a 9.7! (crowd cheers) EMCEE: First place,
we got Ogallala! (crowd roars) DAVID MERRILL:
Being able to take it this
far is just, it’s amazing. Knowing that we get to leave
it all out there like that. GROUP: About time! DAVID: Watching it come into
what I always wanted it to be was just an amazing experience. (laughs) CELIE KNUDSEN:
You work with really, really,
really amazing people, and you realize that a poem
is kind of a living thing. It’s always changing. It changes depending
on who’s in the room. That’s the best thing
about slam poetry, right? Is you’re not performing
for a group of people that have PhDs. You’re trying to make the people in the audience feel something. (upbeat music)

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