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Devils' Advocate

The news site of Hinsdale Central High School

Devils' Advocate

Poetry Club returns to Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival

Poetry Club students embrace creativity as they prepare for the first in-person poetry festival since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Clara Pappas
Rooted & Radical website showcasing the festival dates.

On Feb. 10, Hinsdale Central’s Poetry Club will attend the annual Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival located in Chicago. This will be the first time that Hinsdale Central’s Poetry Club has attended the festival since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival is run by the Youth Chicago Authors, an organization founded in 1991 dedicated to providing creative writing resources to youth all across Chicagoland. During this festival, students have the opportunity to prepare original pieces of poetry which will then be presented in either solo or group presentations. The festival consists of a series of events, however the kickoff event will occur on Feb 10.

During the festival, students will present their pieces of work in the slam poetry style, which is a form of poetry where poets perform spoken word poetry in front of a live audience with a panel of judges. In the Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival, the judges are students themselves. 

“What the festival is, is that students write their own original poetry, and then they practice it in an art form of delivery that is called slam style,” said Kimberly Williams, English teacher and Poetry Club sponsor. “Then [poetry club members] go to these festivals rather than competitions, because it centers the idea more around presenting your work and supporting each other, rather than the aspect of ‘who’s gonna win’”.

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The festival itself runs for a couple of months, with a variety of events occurring during that time frame. 

“It’s all one big festival, but then there is a series of events within the festival,” Williams said. “There’s a kickoff event and then there are two rounds of preliminary bouts that every team goes to. Then, there are semi-finals and then finals.”

Preparation for the festival begins months in advance, with student co-captains leading the way in order to provide guidance to their members. 

“I explain how the slam works and what poems do well, and generally try to guide the team to write poems that can be used,” said Tatum Barnum, junior and co-captain of the Poetry Club. “Later, I will help Mrs. Williams coach performance aspects.”

When coaching performance aspects, it is important that students are not only able to write well, but able to accurately reflect the emotions and meaning of their pieces to the audience as well. 

“When I coach [members] it’s almost like acting in a way,” Williams said. “I start coaching them on performance aspects…such as where would pauses be most effective, what changes in volume are most effective to get your meaning across, speed, gestures, all of the things you would do when you are presenting a speech or acting.” 

This is the first time that Hinsdale Central is attending the Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival in-person since the start of the pandemic. This in itself has proved to cause some challenges.

“[Young Chicago Authors is] just getting back to some of the things that used to exist before the pandemic, and our kids that we have right now never really got to see that,” Williams said. “Freshmen and sophomores used to learn by seeing our juniors and seniors, but now no one knows what [the festival] is like.” 

Despite facing some difficulties when it comes to preparing for the event, Poetry Club members are still excitedly waiting for the beginning of the Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival. 

“Personally, I love the community and creativity that everyone experiences during a competition,” Barnum said. “You get excited for anyone who gets voted upward, and it’s really more about sharing poems than it is about winning something.”

For more details, click here to visit the Rooted & Radical website.

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About the Contributor
Clara Pappas, Editor-in-Chief
Clara Pappas, senior, is excited to return to Devils’ Advocate as Editor-in-Chief this year. At school, she is a member of Radio Club and Link Crew. She enjoys watching the White Sox, listening to music and going to concerts with her friends. Her favorite music artists are Mitski and Johnny Cash. You can find her at [email protected].

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