Nebraska’s Lincoln High School is the first to offer a varsity in Poetry Slam. That’s going to score a perfect 30 with the judges! I’m a fan of the slam, and ran the local Seattle show for several years. One of the earliest mottos of slams around the country was, “check your ego at the door.” Also, we say, “The points are not the point. The Point is poetry.”
The sportswomanship and camaraderie of the slam are some of my favorite aspects of being involved. (I used to attempt leading the audience in a high school style cheer, “gimme a ‘P'” but since I wasn’t ever a cheerleader the timing of the crowd response always threw me off, and I invariably misspelled the word “poetry” every. damn. time.) I’m thrilled to see the news from Lincoln, and am proud that the tradition of support and community are built into the varsity letter requirements. For example, participating students must respect their teammates and their competitors:
Support and cheer good performances of other writers in competition. Congratulate other poets sincerely. You can make lifelong friends with people who share your interest and passion for writing.
A positive attitude toward team, sponsor and coach is a requirement. No bullying on any level to anyone.
So a heartfelt thanks to the folks Lincoln High School for supporting the next generation of spoken word artists, and recognizing their hard work and achievements within the lettering system. Here’s a look at one of their recent teams performing a group piece at TEDxYouth – you’ll see why these performance poets deserve their accolades:
A note: there are many slams run through drama, debate, and forensics programs, which many schools include in lettering programs. It’s possible to earn a letter through one of those activities for poetry slam participation. Lincoln’s appears to be the first that calls it out separately.