Get to know the contestants of the 18th Annual School-Wide Poetry Slam


courtesy Poetry Slam contestants

Juliana Baltz, Malia Chan, Dommy Hernandez Beltran, Matthew Kim, Kaiden Luis, Hanna Mills (center), Jennifer Palacios, Jordan Rahmfeld, Rashi Sharma, Angely Vargas, Piper Chatwin.

The 18th annual Schoolwide Poetry Slam was held in the Eagle Theater during ACT on Friday, April 7. English teacher Carrie Abel Shaffer hosted and organized the event, and English teacher Jonathan Kwan and Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg judged.

This year’s Poetry Slam had two winners, Angely Vargas and Kaiden Luis, and two honorable mentions, Malia Chan and Piper Chatwin.

The competing poets have introduced themselves and their poems below:

Juliana Baltz – sophomore

Poem: “lucky”

My poem, “lucky,” is about the homophobia I experience at the school as well as outside of it. It is very personal to me as being queer is an important part of my identity.

Malia Chan – junior

Poem: “Women in STEM”

My poem is incredibly personal to me, as I wrote a first draft of it as something I thought was too terrible to submit for the AP Lang poetry anthology assignment. Since then, I have been expanding and cutting parts of it, and I’m really proud that it still retains the same message I wanted it to convey at the start. I think the reason I wrote it in the first place was because I read a Sylvia Plath poem about her experiences with men and wanted to write about it as well. She seemed to look into my soul and understand exactly what I was feeling, and I wanted to put pen to paper and try to explain how I felt about that. I originally felt as though it was too pretentious to submit and was not enchanted by it, but after I re-read it recently, I decided to spruce it up to submit for the poetry slam.

Dommy Hernandez Beltran – senior

Poem: “Shoot Your Shadow”

This poem that I performed is just a way of how my emotions felt, how I felt during some previous experiences that I have been through. The poem goes back and forth between conversations, basically me playing several roles going back and forth with myself and the people who I was with during these experiences. The title of this poem is called “Shoot Your Shadow.”

Matthew Kim – junior

Poem: “On Fitting In and Dying Out”

My poem is titled “On Fitting In and Dying Out.” I was inspired in part by the work of poet Chrysanthemum Tran, as well as by my own experiences with dysphoria. My goal with this poem is to reflect on my feelings about my appearance and how I attempt to assimilate physically into a world that treasures conformity.

Kaiden Luis – freshman

Poem: “Dear J.K. Rowling”

The title of my poem is “Dear J.K. Rowling” and it’s a poem addressing the problems going on regarding trans and queer youth. In this poem, I use J.K. as a personification of the multitude of people who are presenting these horrid views on my so-called “lifestyle.” I grew up watching the Harry Potter movies and now that I’m older I’ve wanted to read the books but due to her VERY clear standing on my rights as a human being, I refuse to support her in any way. I’m a trans man, and I’ve identified as such for a little over three years. This poem makes me shake every time I read it because it’s such an important thing to talk about right now and I have such a large amount of frustration built up with how things are going in the United States. I poured my time and heart into this poem and I love it, I hope you all do too.

Hanna (Vesper) Mills – senior

Poem: “Little Miss”

“Little Miss,” based on the trend, is a poem I wrote back in 2022. It reflects the confusion and fear I had about graduating high school this year. Based on everything I have gone through, I didn’t really know who I was or who I wanted to be. This poem demonstrates that inner turmoil along with the path to finding oneself, and uses some quotes you may very well know, to do so.

Jen Palacios – sophomore

Poem: “Why would we ask for any of this?”

What initially inspired me to draft this poem was the English workshop that Mr. Kwan had given my class for the poetry unit back in January/February. With poetry, I’ve always found it easier to write when it’s a topic or experience I’m passionate about. Women’s issues have always been and will always be something I educate myself and others on. And I think that through poetry I can better convey that information/message. I also believe that the poem itself may and/or can largely impact its readers through its genuineness and authenticity.

Jordan Rahmfeld – junior

Poem: “Wealthcare”

My poem’s called “Wealthcare.” I got inspired by a webtoon called “Clinic of Horrors,” 10/10 recommend. The webtoon takes place in a clinic in a dystopian capitalist society, and I thought that was a sick poem prompt.

Rashi Sharma – junior

Poem: “Scream”

My poem is called “Scream.” I was initially driven to write by my love for heavier music genres (metal, basically), which often contain screaming/growling. I was excited to find a way to share some of the many immediate reasons why I love the music, especially how it can convey so many different emotions with similar levels of rawness and energy. This “especially” point ended up being much more special than I thought, so now it’s all grown up and has usurped the poem (oh no), and I ended up not talking about music at all. Ironically, because of the narrowed focus, my poem’s meaning has become more universal, and I’ve decided to leave it that way. Now, it has something to do with how the only thing guaranteed in life is intense, crushing emotion, and hey, that’s kind of spooky and existential, but also pretty cool and existential to think about. Honestly, ‘Scream’ still feels as personal as when it was pinballing around my mind, only it’s new, improved, and relatable (yay). It was really fun to write, so I can’t help but hope that it’s also fun to listen to.

Angely Vargas – junior

Poem: “Legacy”

Normally, the ideas for my best poetry come to me past midnight, but this poem was different because it came to me on an evening during winter break. I was having a breakdown over one of my classes in particular because my grade for that semester felt like a stain on my transcript, and I was worried that it would severely hinder my chances of being able to afford college; as a first-gen student, grades are equivalent to scholarships and therefore access to higher education. It sounds kind of dramatic, but that was the moment where I began to question if all my hard work would amount to nothing, if all those 5 pm-2 am study sessions and my effort in the previous semesters would simply go down the drain. I just remember thinking about how unfair it was that some kids got handed all these opportunities growing up because their parents had connections and how they were born “Legacy” (title of my poem) kids, while us first-gen students have to create our own legacy from scratch.

Sophie Yung – freshman

Poem: “An Inquiry of Heritage”

I performed “An Inquiry of Heritage” at the slam. My poem is personal to me since it takes directly from my experience as an Asian-American struggling with the feeling of being “Americanized.” My parents came to the United States for college, and I was born and raised here as a second-generation immigrant. I hope that this poem will resonate with everyone regardless of whether they share my experience or not. Poetry is an intimate art — often it draws from personal emotions and issues — but I think that’s the beauty of it, and I’m excited to share this beauty at the slam.

Piper Chatwin and Vara Vedati declined to be interviewed.

Blaise Wang did not respond in time to be published.