Louder than a Bomb Finals — Living Up to the Name

When was the last time you burst from your seat with a whoop and holler because polite applause was just not enough? Don’t think Red Sox or Patriots, think poetry. Think Louder than a Bomb (LTAB), the Massachusetts youth poetry festival – an event that lived up to its name May 23rd! In an audience made up of people representing birth years from the 1920s to the late 1990s, the energy was uniform. If you were at the Boston University Theatre for the finals of the festival competition, you were certainly one of those on your feet.LTAB '13 - large group

(Participants and masspoetry.org weren’t the only ones cheering on the young poets. See the Boston Globe article on the preliminary contest.)

Laurin Macios, who was in the audience last Thursday, said “What I won’t forget is the way the whole room exploded in cheers when great poems received high scores — even though the poets are technically competitors.” Which says another heartening thing about LTAB – it’s easy for competition to melt into camaraderie.

The four competing teams were FreeVerse! (Lowell), Codman Academy (Dorchester), Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (AMSA), and Grub Street (Boston).

A poem about world hunger

The winning team was Codman Academy. Laurin says of the winning team poem, “It started with each of the three on-stage members saying what they had to eat that day, and I think everyone in the audience was curious as to where they were going to take that, as some poems throughout the night were serious and heartfelt, and others were humorous. They took it somewhere really unexpected and powerful — a poem about world hunger, full of passion, power, and research.”

Laurin had praise for other performers. “One of the most unforgettable moments to me from the night’s showcase was the very first poet on stage, J.C., performing a blisteringly brave and personal poem about gender. That was a kind of courage you don’t see much of day-to-day, and that really touched me.”

She described the Free Verse! team’s homage to their home city, Lowell, as “a new state treasure,” and Grub Street, represented by strong young women whose poems explored what it is to be a woman, a mother, and a daughter. AMSA’s poets delivered insightful poems that were both “well-written and strongly performed, whether they were making us laugh or making us think.”

What is striking about Laurin’s description of the poems is their social and communal relevance and their pluck. These groups of young people are not only feeling the power of poetry, they are becoming a strong, socially-aware group.

The added value of performing poetry

Alex Charalambides, who works with MassLEAP, strongly believes in the power of LTAB to change the lives of students.  “It’s one thing to visit all these communities and encourage young people to write and share; it’s another thing to invite them all to a safe space where they can literally see that their writing has taken them somewhere.”LTAB '13 - trophy

Thanks go out to the teachers and coaches who work daily with the students and to the team from MassLEAP who organized the program. They are: Amanda Torres – Co-Founder & Curriculum Development Co-Chair; Alex Charalambides – Co-Founder & Continuing Events Co-Chair; Jason Henry Simon-Bierenbaum – Outreach Coordinator and Program Associate; and Eve Ewing – Event Coordinator and Development Associate

Let’s give it up for them all – young poets, teachers and coaches, and MassLEAP!


  1. The Louder Than A Bomb finals was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had: the beauty, power, passion, artistry, emotion, and camaraderie of the student poets was beyond description. My daughter and I felt very fortunate to have been there. Thanks to all the student poets who performed and to MassLEAP for making it all possible (and to my former intern, Amanda Torres, who came to Boston from Chicago where she’d been part of the original LTAB with a dream to start a LTAB here, and now she and her partners made the dream come true!). Bravo to all. — John Wilpers

  2. Thanks for your enthusiastic comment!