Over the last two years, sophomore Makeda Yezalaleul has been cultivating her interest in poetry. In her freshman year, she won the freshmen poetry slam, marking her spot on the local poetry scene. Last year, the Los Altos Slam Poetry Team was a wild card team in the Unified District Poetry Slam. During their call back in the finals, Makeda was asked to compete, which was her first experience on such a large stage. This year, the slam team took second place. Because of her experience she decided to officially join the poetry team, Divulgence.
July 6, 2017
Q: The poetry team asked you to join them last year during the UDPS finals. How was that experience?
A: I remember last finals I was freaked out of my mind because I hadn’t done this kind of stuff before, and I was a freshman but you can’t get in your mind. There’s so much good poetry there. You have to be able to get out of yourself to be there and appreciate all of it because it’s so good. You have to know you got this, and you’ve been preparing for this, you can do this and you should know that you can do this so you can appreciate everybody else’s pieces.
Q: What has been your poetry journey? Have you always enjoyed poetry?
A: I remember in eighth grade we did a poetry unit and I was like “Oh, this is cool. I could be good at this.” And then freshman year, I had Mr. Kwan and then we did a poetry unit. I was like “This stuff is really cool,” especially slam poetry because we didn’t focus on that in eighth grade. It speaks to people, and I love poetry that affects different people, even if it’s a poem about yourself and so I was like “This is so real. Why don’t I try something?”
Q: What was your writing process like?
A: I always have ideas in my head, just going on. I write them in my notes, but I have to be really compelled to write a piece of poetry. l piece things together, and sometimes I’m like “Can I really write a poem about this?” and then I just start writing and it keeps going. Poetry is a little nerve-wracking for me because I like writing poetry, but just performing poetry — I think getting in front of a crowd, but especially if it’s intimate and that kind of stuff like last year when we had to perform our poems that we wrote in class… It’s a really beautiful feeling, honestly, and it’s a feeling that makes me want to keep doing it over and over again.
Q: What was your poem about this year? Did you and your partner’s parts about religious experiences contrast each other?
A: I’ve had a strong religious upbringing and my partner Yalda hasn’t, but we’re still on the same topic of “God, are you there?” The thing we had in common was just believing in someone and questioning if that someone is following through. So we’re still both questioning things and our poem ended on a note where we ask, “Are you there? Can you help us? We want to try and understand you, so help us understand you.”
Q: From this experience what would you say about your community, the poetry team?
A: We don’t write about the same stuff, and I love how we don’t write about the same stuff because our broad variety of poems are so uniquely diverse. I like the whole process of editing someone’s work and sharing it and going through that. I also love seeing the before and after and how someone can get to really know their piece. I love how we support each other through this whole journey.
Q: Do you have anything to say to those who haven’t experienced this yet?
A: I honestly didn’t think that I would be doing poetry again this year because still just thinking about it, it just scares me at first. But once I entered UDPS, I was like, “This is why I love this, and this is why I’m going to keep loving it,” and I encourage anyone if you think you don’t, just try it and try to get to know it. I think it’s worth it.”