‘Louder Than a Bomb’ returns, bringing teens’ feelings in poetic form

February 18, 2012

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Chicago can proudly boast its reputation as the city that made poetry cool for teenagers -- slam poetry, at least. Competitive, raw, and onstage, it’s a medium that has helped thousands of teenagers channel their budding identities, intense personal feelings and emerging political world views in recited verse.

The medium’s best local champion continues to be Louder Than a Bomb, the annual teen poetry slam that draws hundreds of competitors from around the city every year. Participants like to de-emphasize the competitive aspect of their practice with this mantra: “The point is not the points—the point is the poetry.” And that’s true. But the competition can be a joyful nail-biter, as fresh voices pop up and more experienced poets hone their craft, and every round brings poets that seem to spit rhymes faster than the last.

This year’s festival kicks off Saturday with a launch event for participants, followed by the first preliminary rounds of the competition, which are open to the public and begin Thursday, Feb. 23 at Columbia College Chicago.

As a kind of warm-up, we have an excerpt above from an August 2011 LTAB performance by Orr Academy senior Keisha “Kush” Thompson, who was selected as an individual finalist in last year’s competition. Her poem, “An Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified,” details her struggles with food and body image.

That performance also featured some of the series’ recent stars, including Malcolm X. London and Lamar Jorden, who WBEZ videotaped live on location last year, and Steinmetz High School team “Tha Steinmanautz,” who stole the show in an award-winning feature-length film about the competition with their moving group performance. You can hear all the performances here.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Kush Thompson performed at a Louder Than a Bomb event presented by Young Chicago Authors in August 2011. Click here to hear the event in its entirety.