Port Angeles poetry slam to be a contest, ‘display of guts’

PORT ANGELES — Given the opportunity to recite a poem in front of his peers — plus lots of parents and the public — sixth-grader Joshua Burdine chose one that rings true for many.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler, long I stood/And looked down one as far as I could,” it begins.

Then it winds its way to this end:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence:/Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”

This is of course “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, to be part of the Port Angeles Library’s first-ever poetry slam Thursday.

The event will get under way at 6:30 p.m. in the library at 2210 S. Peabody St. and is free to the public.

The slam, open to sixth- through ninth-graders across Clallam County, may well be a kind of revelation of what young minds are thinking about.

Range of topics

“The poems range in subject matter from Alzheimer’s to the viewpoint of a floor and everything in between,” said Jennifer Knight, the youth services librarian orchestrating the event.

A poetry slam, for the uninitiated, is a performance, a contest and a display of guts.

Participants stand and deliver original work or that of other poets.

And Thursday’s recitations will include some “teen angst,” Knight noted.

“There are a few love poems, a few silly poems and a poem about a cowboy” among the more than 30 entrants from Sequim and Port Angeles high schools, Jefferson and Franklin elementary schools and Stevens Middle School.

Most of the works are short, so Knight estimates the slam will run about an hour.

‘Takes courage’

Alan Turner, co-owner of Port Book & News in downtown Port Angeles, is among the slam judges.

“It takes a lot of courage,” he said, to get up there and recite a poem.

And Turner, who considers himself not a literary critic but a man who likes honest emotion in his poetry, is looking forward to hearing the youngsters’ words.

“I get the feeling,” he said, “that the emotional impact is what will strike me.”

Thursday’s slam, held during National Poetry Month to encourage creative expression through words and performance, is part of the North Olympic Library System’s ongoing programming for youth.

The event is funded by a gift from the Port Angeles Friends of the Library.

Poems to be read

A sampling of the poems on the agenda Thursday night: “Breeze to Wind,” to be recited by Victoria Pope; “Alzheimer’s from the Inside” from Ash Thayer; “I Still Do!” from Katherine Bowes; and “Snyder’s Cinnabombs” by Marin Williamson, who like Burdine is a sixth-grader at Jefferson Elementary.

Yet another Jefferson sixth-grader, Faith Junker, chose William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” for her recitation.

Alongside Turner, judging the performers on their verbal and dramatic prowess will be April Bellerud, owner of Odyssey Books in Port Angeles; Friends of the Library board member Larry Welch; and Michael Mills, editor of Peninsula College’s Tidepools journal.

Slam prizes include an iPod Nano, an iPod Shuffle and gift certificates for local bookstores.

To find out more about library activities in Port Angeles and at the branches in Sequim, Forks and Clallam Bay, visit the North Olympic Library System website at www.NOLS.org or phone 360-417-8500.

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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