A poetry slam dunk: the 2023 Freshmen Poetry Battle


Lewis, Ishika Modi, Ella Omura, Amitee Salcido, Jaz Santos, Nora Saraci-Alonso, Jeronimo Sepulveda Sagaseta, Lev Zeigler.

Last Friday, February 10th, over 300 students watched 11 of their peers compete during the Freshmen Poetry Battle using just their words, passion and a sole microphone. Participants were chosen by their classmates and/or English teachers to compete and fought against each other for a spot in the top three by performing a two-minute poem on the stage of the Eagle Theater. 

“The students who ended up winning not only had really cool performances, language and poetic devices, but they were also able to put all of these things together,” English teacher and Freshman Poetry Battle judge Caitlin Hannon said. 

But all participants — not just the winners — brought heartfelt poetry, and were met with applause, support and snaps from the audience. They delved into topics ranging from body image to societal pressure to self-worth to odes to special everyday objects.

“Poetry is a space where students can share their personal truths,” English teacher and judge Carrie Abel said. 

Many of the poets shared their own experiences with difficult topics, including winner of the poetry slam Caila Kim. Her poem, titled “Skin and Bones,” centered on eating disorders and how societal pressures impact how one sees themselves. 

“I just wanted to write something I could put all of my emotions into,” Caila said. “If you have a lot of built-up trauma, poetry is a great way to really express yourself without using direct words”. 

The second-place winner of the slam freshman Nora Saraci-Alonso helped edit Caila’s poem. 

“It was a really nice process to go through as friends,” Nora said.  

Like Caila, Nora performed and wrote her poem with vulnerability and passion. Her poem, “Enough,” was about owning one’s true self without needing others’ validation. 

“One day, I sat down and it just poured onto the paper,” Nora said. 

Third-place winner freshman Lev Zeiger performed a poem about a problem that affects many in the Los Altos High School community: bullying. His poem emphasized the message of not judging others based on appearances. 

“I’ve definitely said things that I wish I could take back, and heard people say things that I don’t feel comfortable with, so I just wanted to address that,” Lev said. 

Lev credits his father as his biggest supporter, and is now interested in pursuing poetry further. He encourages other people to try writing poetry too. 

“It’s definitely something I didn’t know I was passionate about until I did it,” Lev said.

At the Poetry Battle, host and English and AVID teacher Jonathan Kwan announced the revival of the LAHS slam poetry team, describing it as a way for student poets to share and work on their poetry and presentation skills while competing at local slams. Tryouts for the team will be held on Wednesday, March 8th during ACT in Abel’s room. 

For more information, email Abel at [email protected] or visit their Instagram page @lahs_slam_poetry_squad.