I suppose it started sophomore year. In an dimly lit english classroom, a slightly neurotic teacher gave us the option to perform a poem for a our final project. Performing Walt Whitman’s “Oh Captain, My Captain” made me discover I loved performing poetry. I didn’t realize there were actual places to do that and poems meant to be performed until a friend from my lunch shared a video of BNV alumnus Olivia Gatwood performing a poem about rbf, at which point I began to devour any and all slam videos. I didn’t ever consider there was a way to make it to BNV until a girl in my junior year english class advertised a voltage slam, and I didn’t consider it was a possibility that I could make it to BNV until I literally made it into BNV, and even now I’m a little shocked.
My expectations for BNV were wild and far off. I pictured a sunny California campus quad, filled with amazing teenagers spontaneously breaking into dope poetry kinda like people breaking into song in musicals, and mysterious things called ciphers (I still have no clue what that is btw). What I got was in many ways better and in some ways worse (looking at you, San Francisco weather). I met incredible people and not-so incredible people. In many ways, I expected BNV to be some sort of alternate universe, exempt from the realities of life. But BNV showed me both how amazing people can be, but also that these dope poems and experiences don’t just pop up out of thin air. It. Takes. Work. But that work can be rewarding in ways that I never even considered, and the people who have been putting in this work for a while have wisdom and advice that is literally invaluable. The people at BNV are people I would have never otherwise had the opportunity to meet, and their experiences have exposed me to new perspectives that I have changed the way I approach the world and reminded to always be open to life. The outfits at BNV have reminded me that braving the cold is worth it if your outfit is literally fire (@ the Saint Louis team). The poems at BNV have taught me the value of humor, and the necessity of group pieces. All these experiences have helped me grow as a person, and made me feel ready and made me want to compete to be on next year’s team. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken a chance on me and made this incredible experience possible!
Five Milwaukee area scribes compete to represent the city at an international spoken word festival and competition called Brave New Voices. The students participate in qualifier events, advance to BNV Finals and, upon return from the festival, perform at schools and events throughout the city until the next MKE BNV team is selected.