Poetry slam tonight at Frank Bette Center for the Arts
By Diana Ariza Klose
The new Slam! Poetry Contest at Frank Bette Center for the Arts was inspired by the creativity and power of expression of Brave New Voices, the nation’s original poetry slam dedicated to youth. It’s a monthly event for poet/performers between the ages of 12 and 25.
The contest is held the second Friday of each month at 7 p.m., and the next one is set for tonight.
Alameda High senior Harrison Freck won the inaugural contest on February 11 with his poem, “Pondering Deism.”
His performance was a powerful hip-hop weave of words – a vibrant collection of sounds with profound meaning and emotions well beyond what adults typically expect from a 17-year-old.
Freck performed his poetry with an unassuming attitude, impressing the judges with his deep and earnest perceptions. He says he is passionate about languages, compelled by the power of words.
Born in Washington D.C., Freck moved to Alameda with his parents and two younger siblings when he was still a toddler. He has been writing poetry since his sophomore year at Alameda High. He founded and directs the school’s writing club. He speaks Spanish, and has plans to perhaps travel to Italy, to learn another culture and one more language.
Here’s a short excerpt from his winning poem:
I am to blame for my position,
though not blamed imposition,
of the machinated disposition,
formed of a deist supposition.
No, I’m not the smallest cog.
Nor am I the greatest…
Krystal Alvarez, host of the Slam! Poetry Contest, also has a passion for language. She taught English and American Literature in both high school and college in Miami, her hometown. She moved to Alameda a year and a half ago and is pursuing a California teaching credential. She works part-time at Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden and volunteers at the center, where she organized the poetry slam as one of its new youth programs.
Spectators of all ages are encouraged to attend the contest, but participant applicants must be 12 to 25 years of age, according to the website. Walk-in participants are welcome and will be allowed to perform as time allows.
Contestants are judged on the manner in which the poem is delivered, content of the poem, performance, and overall creativity. The jury, composed of three volunteer judges, is different each month. Judges must have a background in the arts and be either members or sponsors of the Frank Bette center. Winners receive their choice of gift cards or art books from the in-house store collection.
If you have never experienced a poetry slam, this is a great opportunity. Slams, which originated in New York’s emerging hip-hop/poetry scene in the late 1980s, combine poetry, performance, and sometimes music. Topics range from personal experience to national and global issues. Performances, which may be created and presented by individuals or teams, represent unique perspectives and are usually dynamic and energetic.
This Alameda slam is a perfect opportunity for young people with a passion for writing and performing to share their talent. Participation is free, though spectators may offer donations to support the youth programs at the center.