Meet Louder Than a Bomb’s Younger Sibling: Half Pints

By: Anna Mason and Tommy Brannigan

 

On a sunny Saturday on February 18 , dozens of preteens are strolling around an open stage at Columbia College until it’s time for their performances. Half Pints, the slam poetry competition and open mic for kids not quite old enough for the Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Festival.

Half Pints is 9-years-old this year, close to the ages of many of the fifth to eighth grade participants who are filling the room. Some are laughing with friends, some talking with parents—others are quietly reading over their poems. All of them are here, from different zip codes and experiences, to share their stories.

Diana Makowski’s poem is about video games, while Sam Harris adopts the stage to share his love of rapping. The skill, and sometimes serious subject matter can make the participants seem older and wiser, but their youth shows in their enthusiasm.

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Half Pint Poetics is put on by Kuumba Lynx, a popular slam poetry team and community arts organization. Coordinator Kiela McNair said it is important to give younger students the same space and opportunity that LTAB gives to teens.

“It really gives them a voice at a young age where they’re respected on a stage and they’re given a platform where they can speak their piece,” McNair said. “It’s the opposite of adultism, it’s what do you want? This is where you get to tell us what you want. It’s not like we have a theme, it’s whatever your piece is, come on and speak it.”

To McNair, Half Pints is a way for kids to share their answers to questions they haven’t been asked. “What does their voice sound like, what are they thinking, because most folks don’t ask them what they’re thinking. They just assume that they agree with them,” McNair said.

The LTAB Press Corps interviewed some of the participants and coaches about how Half Pints has affected them.

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Ally Baron

Shoop Academy

What is it like being a young poet?

It’s a really great community and it’s fun to get to write with other people and by yourself, and really get the ideas flowing. I know throughout my life it will probably help me later because it’s important to know how to use your art and imagination.

What excites you about Half Pints?

Meeting new people and being around new people and hearing everyone’s stories through their poems.

What perspective and ideas do you want to share in your poetry?

My opinions about the world around me and what it’s like to be a young person are very different from what they would be if I were maybe 10 years older. Politics, the environment, and everything is different because I am young.

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Eleanor Ross

Alcott Elementary School

What excites you about Half Pints?

I really like sharing my poems especially because I can’t compete until I’m in highschool. I’m really just excited to have an open mic.

What is it like to be a young poet?

I like having a younger perspective, but if you know something is true it doesn’t matter what age you are.

What perspective and ideas do you want to share in your poetry?

I want to share that we are all equal and we aren’t going to let anything tear that down.

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Diana Makowski

What excites you about Half Pints?

A chance to share a story and listen to other people.

What’s it like being a young poet?

When you first come in you’re more intimidated, but after a while you feel the same as everyone else because you’re all poets.

How is your perspective different from students in high school?

It’s more stuff you notice because you’re little. You notice things and not everyone says you have a worthy opinion or something that can be trusted because you don’t know everything. At the end of the day, you still know stuff and can show you’re of value even though you’re younger.

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Sam Harris

Chute Middle School

What excites you about Half Pints?

One of the things I’m excited about is competing, mostly because I feel that I’m not much of a poet. I’m more like a rapper that embodies a poet in rap. I guess I’m most excited about sharing my rap in the body of poetry.

What is it like being a young poet?

I feel like it’s really fun and I feel like I need to be more competitive considering I’m going up against high school kids. It puts more excitement than fear because I know that I have a chance to listen to their poetry and feed off that in order to make it better.

I feel like even though they were young at some point it doesn’t mean they did this while they were young, while they were my age. I guess I have more of a young person’s perspective on Louder Than A Bomb because they’re older.

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Jenna Temkin

Teacher at Chute Middle School

Why is it important for your students to be involved with LTAB and Half Pints?

It’s a huge honor for us to be a part of the festival. For us, the biggest reason why we come here and we keep coming every year is because our kids in Evanston are getting to work with kids from all over the city, all over the suburb, as far as Indiana. I think it prepares them for moving onto high school and it better reflects the diverse community that we already live in, so it further supports that.

Do you think being in LTAB at a younger age gives them advantages?

I think it gives them an advantage on being a better human being. I don’t know if they have an advantage on the team at the high school level or not, though they definitely have the experience. I think they go into high school whether they’re on the team or not with just a broader perspective.

 

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