Writing poetry is not an easy art form. Now add to that the challenge of performing your poem from memory on stage and in front of a group of your peers. That’s just what a group of students from Nebraska Methodist College’s Upward Bound program will be doing later this month during two Louder Than a Bomb poetry competitions.
Louder Than a Bomb (LTaB) originated in Chicago in 2008, but after the release of a documentary in 2011 about the poetry competitions, LTaB poetry groups and events sprung up throughout the country.
About half a dozen students from NMC’s Upward Bound and St Luke Teen Center programs will participate in upcoming LTaB competitions organized by the Nebraska Writer’s Collective. The competitions will take place at Metropolitan Community College’s South Campus Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. and at the Fort Campus Wednesday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m.
The NMC Upward Bound team name for the competition is “Sincere”. “The students picked this name because they felt that everything they share throughout their poetry comes straight from the heart; their words are sincere,” said Upward Bound Project Coordinator, Nadira Ford-Robbins. This year will be a first for NMC Upward Bound students who participate, with six students who will actively take part in the competition.
When asked what sparked involvement in the competition, Ford-Robbins cited the students’ interest in LTaB. The real challenge has been with the weekly practice sessions competing with the various extra-curricular activities and/or school obligations the students are involved in.
“I enjoy working with the students in LTaB because I get to witness their individual light bulb moments, when they have discovered a way to express deeply held convictions and fears in a manner that is therapeutic and conducive to the coming of age process. The growth I get to witness is simply beautiful, and it helps to get to really know who our students are deep down inside.”
Stroll into an LTaB meeting and you’ll hear group members practicing skills to help them recite their poems crisply. Some might be working on drills such as repeating phrases like “toy boat” and “I wish to wash my Irish wristwatch” as quickly and precisely as possible. Others might be practicing volume control techniques using crescendos and decrescendos. Learning these skills helps the students engage the audience while performing their poems.
For many of the students, poetry is an outlet to express themselves, whether writing about life’s joys or frustrations. Through poetry, the students also build skills they will take with them far beyond the competition stage. Students learn how to be outspoken, how to speak in front of others, and how to have stage presence. In addition to categories for individuals, the competition also features a category for four-member teams, which teaches students how to work together as a group.
NMC has been a proud partner of Upward Bound since 2007. Upward Bound is a federally-funded college preparation program through the U.S. Department of Education. NMC’s Upward Bound program is made up of students from Burke High School, and partners with the St Luke United Methodist Church Teen Center.