Creating Bridges and Spitting Stories: Louder Than A Bomb Massachusetts

This past weekend at Louder Than A Bomb Massachusetts, anyone who previously thought poetry was quiet was in for a big surprise.

MassLEAP kicked off the second annual youth poetry slam festival on Saturday, with twenty-four different teams of students from high schools and organizations around Massachusetts competing in preliminaries at MassArt. Over 200 student poets, mentors, and leaders attended Louder Than A Bomb and shared their stories, creating a chance for diverse communities to come together.

Photo by Richard Beaubien

Photo by Richard Beaubien

What was once a competition between friends, on rooftops and street corners, blossomed into something much more. Louder Than A Bomb began in Chicago in 2001, and is now, across seven states, the largest youth poetry festival in the world. As Amanda Torres, poet and co-founder of LTAB Massachusetts describes, “Louder Than A Bomb started as an idea…[it] started as four teams in the basement of the Chopin Theater on Milwaukee Avenue. From those collective meetings came the idea for the festival that would bring young folks together from across the city.”

 Louder Than A Bomb derives its name from a Public Enemy song, “exemplifying the idea that we must name our own lives before they are named for us,” says Torres. “We believe that young people are the future of this world and so we need to start listening to what they have to say.”

At the competition on Saturday, audiences heard teen poets spit stories ranging from quantum science and Bobby Fischer, to racial issues and domestic abuse. Though the students each hoped to win their team a spot in the finals the atmosphere during bouts was very supportive, evidence of the ways in which Louder Than A Bomb builds and strengthens community. Poets applauded one another loudly and often. Especially strong lines received “snaps,” cheers, and even audible gasps. If the audience felt the judges had been unfair, delivering a score deemed too low, they called out “listen to the poem!”

Photo by Richard Beaubien

Photo by Richard Beaubien

MassLEAP Collective—founded in part by LTAB Chicago creator Anna West—serves as the youth programming arm of Mass Poetry, and organizes Louder Than A Bomb. Supporting Mass Poetry means providing the funding to carry out programs like LTAB, and continuing to empower young poets to speak their minds.

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 8.51.49 PMLouder Than A Bomb finals will be held Thursday, May 23rd from 6-9 at the Boston University Theatre. The four teams competing are FreeVerse! (Lowell), Codman Academy (Dorchester), Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School, and Grub Street (Boston). Several teams that did not advance to the finals will still receive showcases on the finals stage.

Tickets are available here. Remember: Listen to the poem!

See the Boston Globe’s fantastic article on LTAB.