Jai Washington wins the 2017-18 Poetry Slam Club’s “Bad Slamma Jamma” title

Ella Mangels

As she stood in front of the near-full room of students, sophomore Jai Washington was unfazed by the crowd, and waited to share the emotional spoken-word poem that would go on to win her the title of The Poetry Slam Club’s 2017-18 “Bad Slamma Jamma.”

“I was really excited honestly to go up there,” said Washington, whose friends were in the audience to support her.

When the room became quiet, Washington passionately delivered a touching and brutally honest poem about her relationship with her parents, one that captivated the audience for both its authenticity and emotion in the longest poem she has ever written.

When she finished the audience snapped their praise and approval in the traditional poetry slam fashion, and the next slammer went up to share her poem.

During one lunch, members of PA’s Poetry Slam Club competed in the club’s seventh overall and third consecutive annual Poetry Slam.

A poetry slam is a spoken-word competition in which competitors present original poems on a topic of their choice and are then scored by five judges on a scale of 1-10.  The highest and lowest scores are thrown out, and the person with the most points at the end of the round is declared the winner.

Competitors usually draw numbers to determine the order in which they will present their poems and to ensure that the first poet is not disadvantaged by presenting first, a “sacrificial lamb” is pre-chosen to open, a role given to a poet not competing in the competition. This allows the judges, who are volunteers from the audience, to calibrate their scores and ensure a level playing field for all participants.

This year, junior Ruby Romsland and PA graduate Nessa Robbins served as the sacrificial lambs for the competition, Romsland kicking off the event with a thoughtful and artistic poem about the definition of a poem and Robbins delivering an honest and emotional piece about her personal life struggles and family experiences.

“It was awesome,” Romsland said excitedly about the experience. “Actually getting up and giving a poem is really stressful but listening to others is the best part.”

For many Poetry Slam Club members, poetry is not about the competition, but rather a passion and chance to express themselves and share their message. Indeed, during the year the club never judges poems presented at meetings for this reason.

Junior Josh Crandall, the runner-up in the slam, is a strong believer in this philosophy. Having only been writing for about a year, Crandall has written an estimated 180-200 poems, and enjoys most about the club “being able to express myself without having to confront people.”

Washington shares Crandall’s passion for poetry as a means of self-expression, saying that “in any poem, I write there’s just a little piece of me,” while also revealing “the most important part of slam poetry is the connection that is formed and getting to get your word out.”

Washington says that while many people tell her they can’t come to Poetry Slam Club because they are not good at poetry or can’t write a poem, she disagrees, claiming “poetry is so diverse, literally anything could be poetry,” and urging them to try it.

For Washington every poem or piece is a slam poem, and “everyone should come to a poetry slam at least once.”