Category Archives: Slam Poetry Competitions

Compete in the 4th Annual Slam Poetry Competition!

March 6th, 2015 at 7 PM (students who have not previously competed in the competition must also be able to attend an information session at 4 PM on February 8th).

It’s that time again! On March 6th, 300 people will fill the Main Reading Room of the Library looking to be entertained and inspired by your words.mattwinning2-1024x837

bowcropWriter, performer,  and emcee extraordinaire, Chinaka Hodge, is returning to host the Competition. Three judges will score poets from high schools throughout Marin County as they perform their original uplifting, moving, and inspiring work. The three poets with the highest scores will compete in the championship round, dazzling the judges and the audience.

We have two separate registration links for poets who want to compete–one for Tam students and one for non-Tam students. This is to increase the diversity of schools the poets attend.

Registration to compete in the competition opens Monday, January 5th and closes Friday, January 30th

Tam High students register here.

Students from schools other than Tam, register here.

Watch the video of the 2014 Slam here

See pictures from the 2014 Slam here


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Slam Poetry Competition 2014

Update: Watch the video of the Slam Poetry Competition here!

Thank you to everyone who made this night such a huge success! You can view pictures from the evening here and read poems from the evening here.



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Slam Poem 2 by Emma Weinswig

I speculate that even before my words emanate

Most of you have already begun to stipulate

Preconceived ideas resting upon stereotypes

This is a young, probably naïve and delusional

Local, probably affluent and spoiled

Short and small, probably shy

White girl, who has probably never worked a day in her life

And is she’s gonna share a poem with us

Hah, well this’ll be good

You speculate.

I’ve heard it before, who I am, you’ll deprecate.

I’ve always been defiled with labels

But I can take it and recuperate

Because where I come from

Wardrobes and follower to like ratio are more important

Than the content of your character

I grew up with an innate sense of rejection

Hyper-intense need to be the best

I come from a generation

Where cliques form friends

Where your reputation is more important

Than your own self respect

A generation of touchscreens and tweeting

Where eye contact and authentic communication is fleeting

Our voices are only read

And our laughter is never heard


I come from a generation

Where the greatest role models young girls have

Are photoshopped plastic replicas of perfection

For boys it’s pathetic show

A hint sensitivity and affection

I come from a generation

Where the media yanks you from the whom,

Nursing you then spoon feeding you your first words

Pretty or ugly

Fat or skinny

Pretty or ugly

Fat or skinny


Due to whatever insecurity

You let drive yourself mad

You’re guaranteed to let

The things you own start owning you

Because you’re fooled to think they’re all you have

This is your life

And its ending one unneeded online purchase at a time

I want you to understand

You are not your GPA

You are not how much money you have saved

Not the car you drive

Not the contents of your wallet

You are not which smart phone you have

Understand that

You are the same decaying organic matter as the rest of us

But time out-

I matter

You matter

We all matter


But we’ve all heard this before

We’re all players

In our very own redundant game of hypocrites

But we all can’t seem to find a way to end it

On repeat I’m watching

Us fail and fumble

As we try to find

A way to transcend it


But why can’t we

Stop speaking in “if only” statements

And start moving forward

And getting over what we don’t like about ourselves

Before we let it hold us back

We all need to

Deepen our love for what makes us different

Maintaining the part of us that’s special

Instead of powdering our faces with lies

And exploiting our Facebook profiles as a disguise

But when the power goes out or Wifi connection is lost

We start to believe we are nothing

If we don’t enact this destined definiton of perfect

At any cost


I say this to my generation

Don’t you dare shatter the truth that you can be anything

Beyond: material, flesh, body, and phony expectations

Our generation must re-establish valid aspirations

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Slam Poem 1 by Emma Weinswig

When I first heard

The verdict conferred

I put myself in the place

Of Marissa Alexander

Trying to imagine

What she thought

As she sat through

Her trial of lies and slander


Lock me up in a cell

20 years in hell

For pulling the trigger as a warning

At my husband abusing me in the morning


My name is Marissa

I’m a thirty-one year old black woman

The mother of three children

But I will miss their childhood

Because on May 8th

It took a jury twelve minutes to sentence me

To 20 years

It took a jury of my white peers

Twelve minutes to sentence me to 20 years

For firing a warning shot


My heart began to rot

When I heard the news

On July 13

A 28 year-old grown man

Needed to defend himself

From a young boy, so he killed him.

But after 16 hours and 12 minutes

He was innocent.


And I asked myself

Should I have continued

My relations with Mr. Crayola?

Who’s crayon fists scribbled

Various hues of black and blues

On my skin as it imbues.

Because they treated my bruises that I wore

As if they were a contagious disease

They said beware of a black woman who protects herself

But don’t worry

It will only take 20 years in prison to cure her of it

No guarantees


This nightmare is becoming a reality

When everyday I hear of

The brutality and abnormality

Of our nation we call free


How can I sleep

With the fear of every time my child puts

A hood over his head he’s marking himself

As a victim to our legal system

Because on July 13

It was made known that wearing a hood

Means danger

That wearing a hood means

You’re up to no good

If you’re black and wearing a hood

You’ve invested in your own persecution

And yet we all seem to forget the ones in white

that have those same attributions


When I took the stand

I refused to plea for guilt

To only be canned in prison

For three years rather than 20


Because on the day

I walked away from my husband

I found my dignity waiting for me

At the door outside

It was homeless and broken

But time after time I ignored it

Letting the pounding of a coward’s fists

Reward it

But on that day I found my independence

Although I was locked up when I fired

I reclaimed emancipation from the shackles of abuse

There was no use in lying

Claiming I was trying

To murder


When you catch yourself beginning

To color within the same lines

Of the same primary colors

As slaver owners once did

Free your mind from prejudice and profiling

Let me be a reminder of all the defiling

Those thoughts cause, before it’s too late.


I thank you for your prayers but decline them

I want you to redesign them

As prayers for all humans of all races

That one-day we might

Stop painting pictures

In only black and white

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Slam Poetry Competition Pictures

Thank you to everyone who made the Slam Poetry Competition a rousing success! The 10 poets inspired, moved, and awed an audience of over 260 people. Below are a few photos from the event. If you have any photos you would like to share, please email them to me at Poems from the evening can be found here (I will add more poems as I receive them). Video of the event will be posted when it becomes available.

Pre-slam prep with pizza and our amazing emcee, Chinaka Hodge…

before slam 1 preslam3preslam2

A few poets…


photo credit: Matt Ross

photo credit: Matt Ross


photo credit: Matt Ross

photo credit: Matt Ross



In front of a huge crowd…insta crowdshot

Photo credit: Matt Ross

Photo credit: Matt Ross

Impressing judges…

photo credit: Matt Ross

photo credit: Matt Ross




photo credit: Matt Ross

photo credit: Matt Ross

A winner…


And a well-deserved standing ovation for all…



The applause and the accolades continued well after the competition was over….


cooldude ilyanaandbro laetita fatherandson chinakakatielalepops chinakafathersonhahamymom dudes lalune slamcrowd1


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High Up Tree by Olivia Sinclair


Don’t cut yourself on the broken pieces of yesterday

the memories like shards on the floor

but I’m barefoot

we are straddling something

much bigger than just “yesterday”

We live in a world that believes

its better to be boring

than absolutely ridiculous

I remember the words once written to me

“Your my hero”

yet my friends and family watched

as my own cape

was caught in one very high up tree.

I bet my mother prayed as she bared me

That I wouldn’t become a product of society

and I remember during days at the beach

most kids would step in their parents sandy footprints

while I backwards tracked my own.

Theres a difference between being strange and broken

between being unheard and unspoken

And just because your living an uphill battle

doesn’t mean your on a downward spiral.

Because there are demons inside

completing task after task

making us want to believe this

One day they feed off food

untouched by an anorexic

and the next push people

off of suicidal ledges

into rocks like pits in our stomachs

when we hear our loved ones are gone.

Sticks and stones

soon become boulders and javelins

and humans have come to the conclusion

that the closer we come to confront our problems,

the bigger the targets in our hearts become.

But they aren’t aiming it for the holes in our heart

rather the cracks on our skin

because our flaws remain shallower than

we remember burying them.

We didn’t burry them deep

like how a skipped pebble that sinks

Like the thoughts of a teen after taking one too many drinks.

our lives can only skip so far in just one blink.

And while some fear



and physical pain

the scariest fear of all is loneliness.

We grow up in a generation

where we laugh at #foreveralone

when in reality

its just a light hearted way

of expressing how we believe

that we will never be loved.

I need you

you are water to my tree

So I can stand tall and proud

with my roots dug so deep underground

with branches reached out

distracting viewers

from their plagued scrutiny

to be trapped with my thoughts

is to face reality

inside of me

no fake hospitality.

High school.

Not all trees are able to grow

and some are even cut down.

by the people spit words so strong

they burst holes through brick walls

just leaving more debris to tip toe around

but sometimes we need to cut ourselves on all this glass and ruble

because our trees can’t just grow on soft soil.

Because even when we seem lost

we are given the opportunity

to find something greater

and unexpected.

Till the day we realize that imperfection is beauty

that tears are not a broken down truck

but the gasoline to keep it going.

Till the day we can look back and say

it only took one baby leaf

to spark a revolution

and stretch into one

very high up tree.


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Definition by Olivia Sinclair

Beauty is always there

but is not always noticed.

But the first time I saw its trace

was the day that you licked the salt water

off my face.

when we were at the beach

and you would sink

into the sand as it melted

from the heat

of your heart

creating streaks

that seeped

deep into

the rivers and creeks

that carried the life

and pinkness to my cheeks.

Though she could never speak

I knew I would never be as good as her.

I was only three

when I first saw the happiness of the sun

and the beauty of the rain.

Then I knew

the time I would see my first glimpse of true pain

would be the day

that I wouldn’t be able to lay

your head to rest

across my left breast.

And most nights you kept guard outside my room

You sturdy slept away all the unwanted doom

because if not

I know you would be to loyal and guilted

to not sleep at my tomb.

It wasn’t until that day

when you ran away

when I skipped a pebble

into a lonely bed of a creek

and for the first time I looked to the sky as I began to speak

“God please bring her home to me.”

Because I wanted to forever hold you

because I was your Lilo and you were my stitch

I was a girl

except you were my bitch.

Then I would watch as the sun left the red clouds scorched,

I found you waiting for me at my front porch.


It was the day I graduated

from sleeping in my parents bed

that I had a nightmare of you leaving

so I went to you instead

I placed my hand on your chest

where I thought would be your left breast

and I swore I could never lay my head to rest

while music was playing

but I found myself in a seldom sleep

because I discovered a new unheard symphony

That somehow felt familiar and sweet.

In that moment I could feel the beauty speak.


It was 1:00 am new years day 2014

when I had a abrupt transition

from sitting in the back seat of this dudes car seat cushon

in an awkward get me the fuck out of here position

to being curled into a broken ball

in poorly lit, empty hallway

with my hand covered like a mitt

intertwined into her chocolate fur

a woven glove that always seemed to have the perfect fit.


Her tummy had filled with blood

and my heart filled with its lust

to smother

what seemed to be the brother of satan

who dare lay another

finger on my little lover

but it was too late for Ruby to recover.


If cancer had non-scientific name

it would be “I can go fuck myself”

But tonight wasn’t the same.

I had only seen fear in her eyes

once in my life

but all I saw tonight was pain.

Because she knew that the end came.


And to think that only yesterday she was healthy

But her steps were taken stealthy

so while laying in the back of the car heading to the hospital

We took one last selfie.

That night was the most beautiful version of ugly!


And as she was laying across a stretcher

I couldn’t help but press her

cheeks to my lips.

as through her whiskers

vailed shallow wisps

that felt familiar and sweet

as I held onto her frozen feet

“It’s time to proceed”

The doctor speaks

as she sneaks

the I.V.

escape begins to seep

deep into her life rivers and creeks

as she prepares to sleep.

But before she laid her body to rest

I pressed my ear up to her chest

and listened to her fall to a seldom sleep

as I heard her symphony slow its beat.

And I released her large chocolate feet.

Then before I left out to the dark street

I started to choke

I could barely speak

If I left her now would she forgive me?

I told her how great of a slam poem she would be

then looked at her one last time

and said;



The definition of beauty

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Piling by Markita Schulman

The piling up does not begin around the edges of my room. It starts with sediment in the creaky places between my bones. Bones, strong as ever, fighting with the grit that keeps them from clacking together. My hip seems to pop when I take a step. I am always either hot or cold.

Soon, there is sand under my feet. I only notice when I’m barefoot. The next day it seems like I’m tripping more often than usual. I tell you what’s happening.

I say, “It’s like there’s something in front of me that I can’t see so I don’t know to step over it.” We both laugh. I say, “This morning I woke up in a bed that was three miles long and forty kilometers wide. I don’t remember where in that vast white landscape I feel asleep; it happened very quickly. But I am now wrapped tightly in the fitted sheet that no longer clings to my mattress. It is neither a cocoon nor a nest but a straight jacket and I am grateful for it. I think if only I could inch down and let it crawl up, let it envelope my brain, I could claim warranted absence of thought, absence of mind.” We both laugh.

The next week it rains. As if every grain of sand said, “Just add water,” now I drag my feet through piles of pebbles. You wonder why I’m so slow.

In three weeks, I am holding stones on my shoulders. I have come to know how smooth they are, how reliable their weight is, how my posture has improved. I spend time tracing the white veins that run through grey stones. They remind me of the marbled pages of an old novel, leather-bound, worn soft on the edges. I want to read these lines the way you read me headlines from newspapers, passionate, without a question in your voice.

But with every word that escapes your lips the piles grow another inch and I’ve got growing pains. These days, I welcome that aching in my shins and behind my knees. I relish the moments when I feel my pulse beat in my temple.

The piles have formed walls that are no less than gilded. This is a sanctuary. This is my temple. There is a great dome—plastered in signs that say, “No trespassing.” Last time I checked this ache was the people’s religion. But I was kept up last night by what I’m sure was mortar hardening. All of the others are worshiping outside.

I imagine you kneeled. You smudged wet ink, folded stiff paper, pressed chapped lips to the envelope, and stuffed your message in between two boulders like a mourner at the Western Wall hoping his tears might seep through.

You say you know no one said anything about collecting stones in a glass house. You don’t know that I couldn’t lob one underhand if I wanted to. My muscles have atrophied and I have not held the stones in a long time.

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Cerberus by Marley Townsend

My grade six history tells me Death looks just like Cerberus guarding the River Styx

and I think

if I were to catch the rancid gaze of that antique and crooked beast,

I would feel the Earth beneath my colored shoe begin to rise and boil like some great holy earthquake.

I would smell it’s unknown skin, sheathed in a whisper’s black,

the shadow of a ghost,

the thing that has been watching me my entire life without a single sound. Waiting.

I would suddenly hear the words from it’s terrifying tongue,

falling like crystallized saliva,

breaking in sharp, dangerous puddles at my feet

and I would know the fear of my ancestors before me.

On their boats to New Cities,

they must have felt the beast gliding underneath them constantly,

and on their airplanes and their ships at war

they must have seen it’s pale-eyed reflection

in the foreign men they had to kill for their countries,

they must have known it was waiting for them just as it waits for me.

It would haunt me.

I, sleepwalking, would sift through time and space as if they were so many grains of rice clinging to my discontented fork.

My peers must have known this beast.

The ones that go cradled in their mother’s arms before they see the waiting room filled with pink and blue balloons.

The ones who go much later, an oxygen tank strapped like an ammo belt across their fragile bird-cage rib bones.

The ones that go in between, go in their cars and go in their bars and go in their last mistakes.  They see it too.

Because the beast is always there.

I came from a dark place curled in my own spinning thoughts, like my brother years before and my sister moments after, and that is where I will go when I go like the rest.

Seeing nothing.

Hearing nothing.


Because they always told me I could become anything I wanted when I grew up,

anything at all.

So I became absence.

The beast won’t hear me that way.

I’ll slide away and hide away and the beast won’t find me today, or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.

The beast will wait.

Shadows glide and fingers slide but the beast will wait.

Time passes,

I sift and I sift, and birthdays are spent sometimes frivolous, sometimes alone, but I will grow old and content and fat with the life in my bones.

And only then will the beast roar it’s oppressed roar.

And I will hear it roar, and the sound will shade my skin a pretty sort of pink and red and I will go in the white-hot rage and valiant battle of a thousand ancestors before me.

I will close my eyes and feel it’s claws around my neck and I will beat my fists against it’s leathered throat until it beats its tattered wings against mine and I am its and it is mine and we are off into my deathday’s nighttime sky.

And then I know only silence.

The beast is gone.

See no evil.

Hear no sounds.

Everything again is fine.

Feel the next life’s sun on my reborn skin and everything will be reset in space and time.

Everything again is fine.


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Lent Advice by Jake Baldwin

Friends, friendish, unfriended, lend me your ears,

and your hearts, and your mouths and hands and gut,

just a moment root your feet ankle-deep in earth.

Remember to envision your mother’s birth,

the thousand thousand sunrises between you

and Mark Antony’s grandmothers,

the way you’d like to feel tomorrow and all the others,

the way you’ll remember to your children the view:

“Beautiful!” but what else?

the eyes you shone upon the outness about yourself

ten years ago before you put appreciation on the shelf,

aside the books you haven’t read

and the pair of eyes gone from your head,

aside the pictures of the dead and those you’ll never meet,

aside the keepsake jar of earth from right.  beneath.  your toes.


Remember to be mindful members of the present,

but don’t stress the unspent days gone by,

the slept-in Sunday AM phase is fine,

but a morning mourning is a missed morning more.

Remember to return to a place that’s yours

to let self-consciousness go comatose.

Allow the day in at the door,

be a gracious host.

Insist it have a drink, and a slice of cake.

Will you go through the day or let the day through you?

Carpe diem! and lubricate!


Remember to make each day last

in storyworthy glory unboring.

Don’t let yourself forget but don’t dwell in the past,

remember don’t live fast, die old,

old and on percocet just to keep walking,

working, if you’re self-employed

you don’t get any benefits,

if you’re part-time you’re irrelevant,

so get a good job or hope

your inheritance is generous,

but don’t be greedy,

be the epitome of elegance.

I know it’s tough, but–



Remember the speeches of all your advisors,

especially me, I’ll preach that I’m wiser

than you (damned if I don’t make

every line about my life).

You wish that you knew if these are lies or

the truth, but you keep on listening

as I sing you my blues.

Do as I do as you do not yet know

how to see the mind through the maze

I paint between lines,

you listen unfazed ‘cause you see with your eyes,

you sit there glazed over, just analyze

the hate this naysayer conveys.

“Beautiful!” what else?


Lend me your criticisms,

I’ll hand ‘em back, I won’t listen,

I’m too attached to me.

I’m written in soliloquies of inhibitions,

Revelations, penance for bad metaphysical directions,

I’ve written a hundred intangible confessions,

I fall every time to metapoetic vindications,

because I’m a hypocrite, don’t listen

don’t listen to me, no,

this is about you!

How you always forget,

how you always get bored,

heed these words a bit more,

this is how you toss out advice

like you’re pimping a whore,

this is how you reach for a vice

though you’d never before,


this is how you hold

a mirror

upright on the floor.


Lend me your vision,

my eyes can’t find me.

Lend me your feet,

there’s no ground beneath mine.

Remind me it’s hard to find the right words–

as usual, what else?

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