Ayn Frazee with winners of the Franklin Poetry Slam, Shala Santa Cruz Krigbaum (1st), Lilli Rudine (2nd), Gigi Bareilles (3rd), Georgia Newman (4th), Anna Gunderson (5th). Photo taken by Sandra Childs.

It has been nearly three years since Franklin High School hosted their annual poetry slam in-person, and I got to say, it was amazing. After isolation from the pandemic, emotions were stewing. Thanks to Ayn Frazee, Franklin’s trusty librarian who hosted the event, students were given the opportunity to have their voices heard in front of an audience who was willing to listen. 

Students from all grades were able to sign up and perform their art. A total of 18 contestants each presented two pieces, one piece for the first round and another piece for the second. Competitors were scored by four judges after they were done with their piece, and the average of the judges’ scores were given. The audience was very supportive of the poets, and many attendees engaged with each poem. 

Frazee hosted the annual slam for people to come together and express their thoughts on any subject. “Truly, you never know what people are going through just by looking at them,” says Frazee. “People don’t know what everyone’s dealing with in their private lives, and this was kind of a glimpse of what students are going through, what they’ve been through, what they overcome, and what they survived. I think it’s great for all the poets getting up on stage and sharing.” 

Shala Santa Cruz Krigbaum, a senior at Franklin, was crowned the winner of the event (Congratulations!). With a poem about worries of the future, holding tight onto the time left, and coming to terms with life changing events, they powered through in front of the audience with passionate expressions of love and sacrifice. “What helps me a lot is just taking a deep breath, and just thinking about my starting sentence and my ending sentence. I do story slams, too, and the main thing that helps us [is to] memorize our stories.”

Lilli Rudine, a senior at Franklin, was the runner up of the slam with an incredible performance. Flawless and directed, delivering line after line with a fiery tone. As it takes quite a turn, you would be surprised at the change of tone of her poem and how beautifully it was expressed. “I really lean on […] emphasizing […] why I want to write, which usually comes from a place of just expressing how I’m feeling.” Lilli enjoys performing rhyming poetry, and recommends it for people who enjoy rhythmic vibes. “I love writing poetry that is personal, especially if it’s a story poem, I think those are important.” Writing prompts helped Rudine’s ideas come to life, so don’t slack off; you might be surprised at what you’re capable of. 

Sophomore Gigi Bareilles wrote about police brutality, detailing her worries of safety for her and her family. Bareilles isn’t afraid to voice her frustrations in front of an audience. “That is how we’re going to move forward; if we can listen to each other as people. We can hear about other’s perspectives that we couldn’t have fathomed, to learn about the things we could never see. I think it will make [us] better humans.” Bareilles encourages students to attend future poetry slams to witness the bravery and courage of others performing. 

Georgia Newman, a sophomore at Franklin, furiously performed at the slam with raw and unashamed art. Battling with stereotypes and eating disorders, she makes her voice loud and clear with honesty. Unafraid to mention the problems with society’s ideal image of how a girl should be, the challenges of self-acceptance, and the hatred that followed. Newman shares her problematic obsession with weight loss, and how she reclaimed her identity from the poisonous thoughts that clouded her mind. Through graphic lines of self-harm, she captures the significance of self-love. 

Junior Anna Gunderson tackled the stereotypes and perspective of love, plus how we view the perfect love story in her first poem. She challenges her ideal image of the perfect girl, and she isn’t afraid to fight back. “I’ve never written poetry until a year ago. Last year I was put into a terrible elective, and I was like ‘please switch me to anything.’ So, they switched me into creative writing and then I stayed. They suggested a competition, and it was fun, so I started doing it. I have written songs since I was eight, and it’s a lot like that. It’s like rhythmic writing, so that’s why I like it.” Gunderson enjoys watching others perform as she feels it gives a reflection into another person’s life. 

The Poetry Slam was indeed a slam. The audience members were very respectful and mindful of each poet. Competitors clapped for each other for their amazing work. Teachers and staff supported their students with signs and whoops. All the poets who performed were brave for sharing their vulnerabilities, so we thank them for their time and effort for a wonderful time. Frazee welcomes students of all grades to share their work for next year’s poetry slam competition. Franklin Poetry Slam winners, Shala Santa Cruz Krigbaum and Lilli Rudine, performed at the Literary Arts’ Verselandia on April 28, with Gigi Bareilles as their alternate.

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