Today marks three weeks until Hullabaloo, the provincial slam competition that Jamie, Lyle, and I (TALONS pride) are participating in later this month. At this point, our mentor Jacob is playing a very large role in supporting and coaching us so that all our poetry pieces are competition ready. I mention this a lot in my previous posts, but it seems that all my free time is filled with the writing of poetry, or collaboration time with the team. My main goal right now is to make Hullabaloo a success, and I am sure that the Gleneagle team is heading in the right direction.

The preparation for this competition has really been pushing us all to really delve deep into the refining of our poetic skills, and I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that there has been a massive learning curve. I look back into some of my older blog posts and realize that my first slam was only a couple months ago, and soon we will be performing on stage with other poets from all over B.C.! Although we still have some work ahead of us at this point, I am excited to be able to have the Hullabaloo  experience this year, and hopefully in years to come.

For the competition, each of the members of the team will be performing three 3-minute poems, and as a team, we are doing three team pieces. I will be competing with a couple of new pieces plus one that I have already done at Café Deux Soleils, while Lyle and Jamie are both bringing new material to the table. In addition, as captain of the team, I will be competing in the individual stream as well, also called the Underground Indies, where one poet from each school team (16 poets) compete head-to-head. In this situation, two poets are chosen at random and each perform their own respective poems, and the winner is decided by applause of the other poets. Winner moves on and the loser is dropped from the Indies. The somewhat of a ‘poet battle’ continues until there are two poets left, in which case the ultimate winner is crowned Champion. There is one quite different aspect of this competition as opposed to the team stream, which is that the poet performs without a mic in 360 degree environment, where the audience sits in a circle. In the coming weeks, I will be working quite a bit on the adjusted delivery of my poems to fit these parameters.

Of course, all of the prep for Hullabaloo would not be the same without our superbly committed and encouraging mentor, Jacob, who is helping us through all of this. He did just win Hullabaloo last year, so I would say he’s the right guy to be talking to, and we are always happy to take advantage of all of his eternal wisdom. Our sessions have gone from curriculum based teaching to workshopping new pieces for competition as a team with Lyle and Jamie. Of course, we all fit in new lessons and poetry concepts to discuss and work on, one of the big ones recently being rapping. Yes, rapping.

We knew from the start that Jacob was a rapper before he was a poet, and I guess we all knew it was a matter of time until he would be developing us as young rappers as well. So after a very during morning at Starbucks, and after a quick and brisk run outside (not willful, mind you) we all shared the raps that we had chosen the past week and performed them for the group. To put this all in perspective, the reason we are studying rappers like Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar is to analyze their rhythm, flow, and use of sound devices like assonance and consonance. After watching a fair amount of these artists’ music on YouTube, I became really intrigued by the way that these rappers use their words to craft a kind of spoken word not so different from what you see at poetry slams. Before this experience with Jacob, I would not describe myself as a rap fanatic, but I find myself going back and listening to some of the works that Jacob had suggested. It has been a nice change from the regular poetry watching, to extend my learning in a way that I can already see my rhythm and flow improving in my pieces. Once Hullabaloo wraps us, I am thinking about writing my own rap piece, which I think will give me a new perspective on poetry writing and critique.

I am really enjoying the mentorship with Jacob at this time, because now that we know each other very well, he is able to challenge me in my poetry and encourage me to step out of my comfort zone (rapping was a first for me). He delights in the fact that he is discover some of my tropes in my writing, which is evidence of the amount of time that he spent working on poetry with me, helping me with writing and performance each week. But in addition to pushing us to be the best poet and leader I can be, he also is very big on encouragement and he lets us know when our efforts are paying off. He calls it slapping you on the face while patting you on the back: Jacob’s perfect balance of getting you to where you need to go while continually offering words of affirmation.

So in the coming weeks, I will be spending a lot of time with both the slam team and Jacob, really smoothing out our poems for competition. It has been a great experience so far, and I am ready to get down to work and make Hullabaloo great for everybody on the team, as well as our fabulous coach helping us along the way. With a lot of great support behind us, I don’t doubt that it will be a memorable time for all of us, and something to carry on with in the coming years of high school.