Omaha goes wild for Louder than a Bomb


April 23rd, 2012

Omaha, NE – Over the past few weeks, KVNO News has followed high school students around the city as they prepared for Omaha’s first youth slam poetry contest. Known as Louder than a Bomb, the competition ended with its final round Friday night. We hadn’t planned to cover it. But as the event went on, we knew we simply had to share it.

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As we reported on this city-wide, quite-enormous-undertaking of a youth poetry festival, we met a number of teenagers from high schools in Omaha and Lincoln. And as they wrote and re-wrote their poems and practiced their performances, we were blown away by the depth and profundity of what they had to say. (click the audio link above to hear a few poetry snippets).

Each student had a unique story to tell. And as we interviewed them, each impressed us as smart, articulate and talented.

Duchesne Academy performs its final group poem, entitled "Crazy." Duchesne took home first place in the final round. (Photo by Jeff Grinvalds, courtesy Nebraska Writer's Collective)

So we felt justified devoting four segments to the competition. It was about hearing from young people in our community on the subject of what’s important to them –with more depth than a brief sound bite can do justice. And we even gave an additional round-up of the competition on opening night. So as the contest neared a close, we thought our work was done.

But then came finals night. And as hundreds of students, parents and people from across the city packed the auditorium at Creighton University, we knew we were witnessing something quite remarkable. (click the audio link above to hear snippets of Friday night’s performances and the raucous crowd)

Not only did the students get up and perform their hearts out, bravely sharing their deepest feelings and most secret thoughts, but the crowd of their peers couldn’t have shown them more love and support.

Bellevue West’s group poem had people literally jumping out of their seats to applaud and cheer them on. When the crowd loved a poet’s line, they clicked their fingers – tap tapping their support. Or when a poet faltered, they clicked and clapped and yelled “You’ve got this!”

Members of the audience, of about 500, rush the stage as the final winners are announced. (Photo by Jeff Grinvalds, courtesy Nebraska Writer's Collective)

The final round saw individual poets from Bellevue West, Duchesne Academy, Lincoln High and Creighton Prep, whittled down from 13 initially-competing schools. At the end of the night, Duchesne Academy took home the final prize – a mere tenth of a point ahead of Bellevue West, and just over two points away from the last place finisher, Creighton Prep.

I watched the final round of Omaha’s Louder than a Bomb competition, seated with another, relatively seasoned, writer from Omaha. And at the end of the night, as the crowd rushed the stage, throwing their arms around each of the performers as they held up their medals and trophies – all in the name of poetry – we were, quite simply, without words.

Editorial note: Audio for this story was provided by the New Timey Podcast Network, which will re-broadcast the Louder than a Bomb final round beginning Saturday at noon at NewTimey.Org. Omaha’s Louder than a Bomb competition was organized by the Nebraska Writer’s Collective, which plans to host a second competition next year. For more information, visit LTAB Omaha.

Click the audio links below to hear a few of the full performances:
Audio provided by The New Timey Podcast Network

Mary Beth Becker, Duchesne Academy, “The Talk”

Group poem, Duchesne Academy, “Crazy”

Group poem, Bellevue West

Gearing up for Louder than a Bomb

Louder than a Bomb: Duchesne’s Gina Keplinger

Louder than a Bomb: South High’s Marissa Gomez

Louder than a Bomb: Creighton Prep’s Greg Smith

Louder than a Bomb: Lincoln High’s Itahi Sanchez

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