Mundelein students to compete at Louder than a Bomb
Mundelein High School Poetry Slam Team advisor Doug Lillydahl (right) coaches Zoey Granitz about her poem during a practice before an upcoming slam competition. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 11:58AM
MUNDELEIN — After just about one year since Mundelein High School’s Poetry Slam Club formed, the young wordsmiths are already set to compete in their art form’s ultimate contest: Chicago’s famed Louder Than a Bomb festival.
This year’s festival is set for Feb. 23 and March 1 and it is the largest youth slam fest in the world. In 2011, the fest attracted 70 teams.
A newer school group, the Poetry Slam Club traces its origin to creative writing classes where teachers have been using Louder than a Bomb videos for a number of years.
“The kids always found them very motivating,” club advisor and English department chairman Doug Lillydahl said.
After testing the waters with a few open mic events during lunch and drawing healthy crowds, Lillydahl said it was clear there was a need for the club.
“We know our kids have important things to say and of course we’re always looking for ways to get them involved and participate,” he said.
The club now boasts about a dozen members and the school has already held a competition of their own, back in December.
Performing poems about deeply personal subjects in front of an audience didn’t come easy, Lillydahl said.
“Kids stopped by my office and said ‘I don’t know if I can do this, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do this, maybe I’ll just watch this time,’” Lillydahl said. “I knew they could do it and I kept encouraging them. In the end they all performed.”
Seven club members will compete at Louder than a Bomb. Their nervousness has subsided since the December event and all acknowledge the important role poetry now plays in their lives, Lillydahl said.
“It’s almost like brushing my teeth in the morning,” Junior Lexus Valentine said about her poetry habit. “It’s something I have to do during the day, even if it’s a line or two. It’ll always be that way no matter what career I go into.”
At Louder Than a Bomb, Valentine will perform an individual poem about her brother’s death from a heart attack. She said she started doing poetry as a means of coping with this loss, as well as other struggles like a stay in a mental health facility.
No matter where life takes her, Valentine said poetry will continue to be a part of it.
“It’s something that I need to do,” she said.
Junior Jasmine Ader agreed, saying she loves expressing her feelings through her poems and having the creative freedom to write about anything.
“There are no limits in writing,” she said “It’s just about how you see things.”
Lillydahl said learning to affect others through expression is one of the greatest lessons kids learn through performance poetry. Connecting their experiences to others teaches them they aren’t alone.
He hopes they will continue to learn and grow, even when they’ve finished competing at Louder Than a Bomb.
“Obviously a poetry slam is exciting and it’s a competition, but it’s much more about the interaction of all the diverse kids in the city,” Lillydahl said.
For Junior Monica Rosas, it’s also about freedom.
“I like the fact that poetry is a way to express yourself without judgement or criticism,” she said.
Also set to perform in Chicago, Rosas will do a poem about the struggle of not having a father in her life due to his battle with alcoholism.
“It’s about how I felt in the past and about overcoming those feelings,” she said.
For more information on Young Chicago Authors and Louder than a Bomb, visit youngchicagoauthors.org.