Among multiple Los Altos High traditions, one of the most recently developed and beloved is the annual Freshman Poetry Slam held in the Eagle theater. This year was the school’s fourth annual freshman poetry battle that took place last Friday, February 26. The first place winner went to Makeda Yezalaleul with her poem “Baggage.” Yalda Khodadad took second place for her poem “Plastic Rings,” and May Wang secured the third place position with her poem “Dear Society.”
The twelve freshmen who competed included the following: Anya Sharma, Lyra Okita, Mahika Gupta, Yalda Khodadad, May Wang, Emily Chang, Makeda Yezalaleul, Skye Riordan, Henry Lai, Emmaly Munguia, Brynna Mitchner, and Riley Dennedy.
The poetry performances were given a time limit of ninety seconds in order to fit everyone’s piece into the 45 minute lunch time. However, unlike last year, the panel of judges declared the winners near the end of lunch.
The twelve poets were selected by their teachers or classmates to perform in front of the school. After the poetry unit in freshman year English, students would present one of the multiple poems written over the course to their classmates.
“Every Survey teacher selects one student that would best represent the poetry battle,” English teacher Jonathan Kwan said. “Different teachers approach it different ways. Some people have competitions in their own room. I kinda just talked to students who I think might represent well and if they’re interested.”
The process of writing the poem and preparing for the slam was long and required hardwork. Although students had written the poem they chose to perform throughout the unit and before the slam, many had to truncate their pieces to meet the time limit.
“When I started writing it, it wasn’t even a poem, it was just brainstorming how I felt about happiness, and then it slowly transformed into something more artistic and there was lots of revisions,” freshman Anya Sharma said. “I wasn’t even sure if my final draft had any of the original in it. There was a lot of help from my teacher and peers in editing.”
Although many students were nervous before the poetry battle and when they were practicing, they enjoyed hearing each other’s poetry.
“I felt like really happy because I thought I wouldn’t even place, and the fact that I even made it into the slam was a really big deal for me because I’ve been wanting to do this the whole year,” freshman Yalda Khodadad said. “The group of people that we had in the slam was such a nice group of people, and I was really glad I was able to do that.”
Through this unit, the students learned a lot about themselves as poets, different issues, and poetry in general.
“Poetry is the part of the heart. In order for your poem to be good you have to write about things that you connect to,” freshman Mahika Gupta said.