Summit Middle School students shine in poetry slam competition |

Summit Middle School students shine in poetry slam competition

The trophy for the Summit Middle School poetry slam sits on the stage as 8th grade students prepare to perform their poems.
By Jessica Smith / |

Summit Middle School Poetry Slam competition

First place:

Why Won’t Society Change?

By Freya Schlaefer

This is for the autistic girl


in the corner


by the world

Scribbling furiously, charcoal in hand

Scratch! Scratch! Scratch!





Into her own personal horror

An infinite Stephen King novel

Because we refuse to change!

This is for the boy

Who couldn’t talk until he was 10

But can play the piano

Better than Back, Beethoven, and Brahms rolled into one

Still no one hears him!

Because he can’t find the words for dinner or family or music

We call him “stupid” and “slow”

Why don’t we change?

This is for the Mother Teresas

The Ghandis, the Martin Luther kings

Weight down in chains of “you can’ts” and “impossibles”

Oh why can’t we change?


A hand snaps across the girl’s face

Her father, a vengeful god screaming destruction

Reeking of alcohol like a whiskey maker.

The world laughs it off

Like some worn-out old joke

Why did the chicken cross the road?

As the girl screams and chokes.

We turn away









Is more important than the life and safety of




Second place

Untitled poem

By Hans Thompson

I’m trying to find something to base life upon,

Something in this strange world that goes on and on

As the years go by and time fades away,

What were good days are now filled with dismay.

Tomorrow comes, then it goes,

And my ambition to become something grows and grows.

The life I want then walks closer every day

I hear its heart, “thump, thump”

All I need is something to live for, I don’t want to continue

Life like dust on this rock,

I’ve based life on what others think,

Wishing I could go back and re-do everything.

I’ve fought too hard to become who I am

One day I will be stronger than steel and will snap the chains

Free from the rules I followed as a child.

I realize it was a game, and it’s still not fair.

Sometimes I feel like nobody cares.

But now I know I am on my own

I think of what I cannot say, my thoughts deepen

Soon I will find out what this face in the sea of others is meant for.

I want to travel like the wind, an eagle drifting freely.

I want to be the oak tree that regrows its leaves

I want to start over.

Hearty claps, piercing whistles and enthusiastic cheers rang out through the Summit Middle School auditorium on Friday, as 29 eighth-grade students individually walked out onstage to perform their poetry.

This was the middle school’s second annual poetry slam competition. “Poetry slam” is a term used to describe a get-together where poetry is performed out loud, focusing not only on words and poetic styles but on performance factors as well.

“They just feel much more open when they can speak through poetry,” said slam organizer and eighth-grade language arts teacher Brittany Wilson. She came up with the idea for doing a poetry slam when thinking of ways to get the students engaged with poetry, and engaged with language through more eloquent means than social media.

“Some of mine wrote about topics that you’re surprised a middle schooler would think about,” Wilson said.

Topics of the students’ poems included descriptions of athletic accomplishments, recited memories, young heartbreak, bullying, natural imagery and large societal issues.

The performers moved through a bracketed elimination system. Wilson recruited four judges — Mark Palz, a creative writing and English professor at Colorado Mountain College; Susan Arrance, the middle school librarian; Nanci Morse, an IB coordinator and high school English teacher; and this reporter, from the Summit Daily News. After every two performances, the judges would advance one student to the next round.

As the students stood up in front of their peers, the pages of which they’d written their poems trembled in their hands, but their voices rang out with confidence, and they moved around the stage, gesturing, leaping and running place, bringing their written words to life. The audience responded, screaming out their support at the beginning and end of each performance.

In the end, Freya Schlaefer was decreed the winner for her poems “Why Won’t Society Change?” and “Nature’s Fury,” narrowly edging out classmate Hans Thompson, who took second place with his untitled poem.

“It’s kinda crazy,” Freya said afterward, of her win. When her name was announced as the winner, she clapped her hands to her face before walking onstage to accept her trophy.

She wrote her poems several weeks ago in class. The poem of her winning performance — “Why Won’t Society Change?” — was inspired by a Jack Kerouac quote on the classroom wall: “The only people for me are the mad ones.”

Freya, 13, is no stranger to performance, having acted in plays from a very young age. The evening after the poetry slam, she took on the role of Juliet in the school play “The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet.”

She also praised the work of her poetic classmates.

“I’d like to thank all of my competitors,” she said, “and say they were really good, and this trophy is for all of us.”

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