The Power of Poetry: The Writing Center’s 6th Annual Poetry Slam

Maya Mercado-Garcia, Editor-In-Chief

At Downey High School, each year the Writing Center hosts their annual Poetry Slam where writers, students, and creatives come together to perform and showcase their own poetry as well as the poetry of the world. On Thursday, February 24th, 2022, the Writing Center hosted their first in-person slam in the black box theater since 2020. 


The Writing Center is a resource on campus where students can get one-on-one help with their writing. Tutors made up of juniors, seniors, and college students help students to become more comfortable and confident in their writing within a low pressure atmosphere. The Writing Center not only provides Downey’s students with guidance in writing, but also provides an event where students of all abilities can share their passion for writing. 


The Poetry Slam, first started six years ago, was formed from a fundraising idea from the Writing Center’s leadership team. Writing Center Director, Mrs. Crespo, explains how this once fundraising idea grew into more than just that, providing opportunity and an experience for all students of Downey High. 


“We were brainstorming ideas for fundraising and that first leadership team really took this idea by its horns and made it happen. It was really neat to watch that and have it become a part of our thing for subsequent years. Even during the pandemic, we were able to pull one off and have the Writing Center celebrate writing in a unique and inclusive way, seeing a variety of students from different classes.” 


President of the Writing Center, Kailani Fletcher, 12, describes her experience with the Poetry Slam and how she has evolved from participating in it as a sophomore to hosting it as a senior. 


“I heard of the Poetry Slam my sophomore year through Mrs. Carlson in my English class and I performed an original piece. It was really fun and an eye opening experience for me because it showed me that I enjoyed slam poetry…I had never experienced something like that before,” Fletcher said. “So I performed again on zoom my junior year and now I get the chance to host with the Writing Center which is super exciting! It’s kind of a full circle thing because for me, it signifies my growth in the art of poetry to the point of where I can now produce an event of poetry instead of bringing my little three stanza poem as a sophomore and hoping no one would laugh.” 


Poetry is an art form that many find refuge and growth in, like Fletcher. With the Poetry Slam, students have the opportunity to perform an original piece or any poem from the world that they find near and dear to their heart. 


“Poetry is really cathartic and a really good release, especially when students get to make the choice. They weren’t assigned a poem to recite so presumably, students picked poetry that really mattered to them and they got to recite it in a way that matters to them,” Crespo explained. “I think that is really important and super positive for emotional and even spiritual well-being.” 


Whether students performed an original piece or something from their favorite poet, students got to come together to celebrate the art of writing. Some, like Kendrell Williams, 12, wanted to leave a mark at Downey High with their words. 


“I wanted to do something cool before I graduate, so I chose to speak poetry,” Williams said. “I performed my own poem called ‘Grind’ which means a lot because all the words I said on stage were to help motivate people to stay on the grind and work hard for their goals. I like to freestyle and I was just freestyling in my head about motivation and that’s how I came up with this poem.” 


Poetry comes in many forms and for Williams, he tabs into poetry through the use of his freestyling. Without a doubt, writing is powerful and the Poetry Slam allows students of Downey High to showcase their words in an artistic and unique way that’s inclusive for all.


“Anybody can participate! It’s not just for honors or AP students, everybody can do it and it’s really fun to hear everyone’s voices,” Crespo stated. “It’s an opportunity for students to speak their voice and we have a lot of poems that are really powerful and you could tell are speaking from the heart.”


Overall, the Writing Center’s 6th annual Poetry Slam was once again able to bring students, staff, and faculty together to celebrate the power and art of poetry. 


Join the Writing Center in 2023 for their 7th annual poetry slam!