By Nick Dimas and Christian Sanchez
After weeks of unseasonably warm weather, winter returned to Chicago with a roar, right before the Louder than a Bomb semifinals on March 12.
But the cold air whipping around The Metro was no match for the fire coming from inside. The 11 hour, four bout festival brought 16 teams and 16 indy poets to the North Side theatre.
Besides the dozens of excellent high school poets, The Metro was packed with Chicago luminaries, like Jamila Woods, who debuted a new song dedicated to poet and educator Nikki Giovanni; and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who was one of the judges for the third bout of the day.
Bout three pitted poets from Kuumba Lynx, Whitney Young High School, Lindblom Math and Science Academy and Kenwood Academy; plus indy poets. The room was packed and buzzing with anticipation before the bout, and the big crowd gave a warm welcome to Garcia and his fellow judges.
The love did not last long, with jeers and “listen to the poems” ringing out as soon as the judges gave out scores that didn’t match the audience’s fervor.
Independent poet Celeste Sanchez from Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School, opened the bout with her poem, “Blue and Orange Gummies.” The powerful piece took aim at educational inequity in the city, and the advantages given to students from affluent backgrounds.
Four rounds later, the teams closed out with particularly powerful group performances. Each squad struck a chord with the audiences and judges, with Kenwood and Kuumba Lynx earning all 10s. Kuumba Lynx ended up moving on to the finals; their poem about movement blew the crowd away.
Sanchez was not the only poet to highlight the area’s divide between rich and poor. One of the best poems of the night came from Luis, a poet from Little Village High School. His poem was brimming with vivid descriptions and frustration over the inequality in Chicago and America. Luis described his parents, each working two jobs but still barely able to pay bills, and a segregated city, each block divided by race. His poem evoked a stampede, rich Chicagoans trampling over the poor.
In addition to Kuumba Lynx, the teams from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, Percy L. Julian High School and Rebirth came out on top in the other bouts.