poetry slam
Poet, puppeteer and judge Roger Sedarat. COURTESY TONY TURNER

Montclair Literary Festival held a spoken word competition (poetry slam) during the festival in March for Montclair students. The Montclair poetry slam drew 32 performers from the town’s three middle schools, and this year for the first time, from Montclair High School. In addition, five adult poets performed and judged the poetry slam. Poet Vincent Toro was the master of ceremonies. According to Montclair Literary Festival, the work at the poetry slam “touched on everything from school shootings to sexual assault, divorce, loneliness, beauty, segregation and cultural difference.

“This year's poetry slam was tremendously spirited and impressively delivered by every young poet who took the stage,” wrote Candy Cooper in a release. Cooper organizes the Montclair Poetry Slam and runs Succeed2gether’s tutoring program.





This year’s award-winners of the poetry slam included Ariana Padilla, a 10th-grader at Montclair High School (1st place), Emma Uva, an eighth-grader at Buzz Aldrin Middle School (2nd place), Jim Sellars, an eighth-grader at Glenfield Middle School (3rd place) and Nico Cooperman, a sixth-grader at Glenfield (runner-up).  

Want to be published? We’re looking or local writing in our new series, “Montclair Writes.”  We’d prefer it to be curated first: a literary magazine, class, writer’s group. Send to culture@montclairlocal.news

poetry slam
Emma Uva performs her work at the Literary Festival. COURTESY TONY TURNER

 “A List Of What To Know Before Being My Friend” by Emma Uva

  1. My life can be equated to MySpace. Once dearly loved, now made fun of for being emo.
  2. If you don’t think Angel Dumott Schunard from “Rent” deserved better, I don’t think you should be talking to me.
  3. I’m 5’2” and all my friends are taller than 5’6”, so I’m looking for some other short friends so that I’m not the only one used as an armrest.
  4. I only communicate in incomprehensible screeching and quotes from “The Office.”
  5. I’ve accidentally begun using the word “YOLO" unironically on occasion and I think that is why my friends leave me.
  6. I’ve had friends that changed like seasons, came and went like leaves passing in a breeze, and I seemed to become like a tree that blocks the wind.
  7. Some days I feel like I won first place in a marathon, others I feel like the track that was run on.
  8. I am a daisy. But not one that stands its ground, straight up pushing itself into the sky, soft white petals trying to blend with the clouds. No, I am the daisy the lovesick girl plucks from its roots to peel off its petals one by one. “He loves me, he loves me not.”
  9. I always make sure she’s left on he loves me not.
  10. My life is like a constant second place. I think I’ll win but I’m just not good enough. There’s always someone who will push past and get what I worked so hard for, while my achievements go without notice.
  11. Earlier when I said all my friends, I basically meant all two of them. Everyone I love so dearly leaves me.
  12. Why does everyone I love so dearly leave me?
  13. Don’t leave me.
  14. Don’t leave me.
  15. Don’t leave me.
  16. Don’t leave me.
  17. I am fragile. I am a seashell broken by the harshness of the waves lapping against the tide. I am a precariously placed vase teetering off the edge of an end table, threatening to crash to the floor, but no one moves it away because they never liked that vase anyway.
  18. My friendships were like broken kites I tried so hard to sail because they were so pretty. Because they were colorful, and looked nothing like the other kites the children flew in the park.
  19. Please don’t be another broken kite.
  20. This may be all in my head. This may all be some sick unfinished painting I try so hard to abandon, but my mind keeps dipping my brush into new colors, mixing new shades, changing the pattern as it goes. My mind may have control of the brush, but I always feel myself spin it in my fingers, ready to meticulously paint on color after color, one brush stroke after the other. Maybe my mind is tricking me into holding the brush.
  21. Maybe the brush isn’t there. Maybe the painting was never started, kites never broken, vase never pushed to the edge, seashell never made it to the tides. Maybe I’m just scared. Scared that all the things that make me happy will evaporate and sail with the wind to a new utopia of theirs.
  22. I’m probably just scared.
  23. If I haven’t scared you away yet, maybe you can be my new friend. One who won’t be another broken kite.
poetry slam
Jim Sellars performs the poem that took third place. COURTESY TONY TURNER

“Erasing Differences” by Jim Sellars

I was the new kid in school
And I had learned of one rule
That in order to blend in
You had to be cool
But one day during math class
Something got me stuck
I had made a small error
Perhaps a stroke of bad luck
There was this kid next to me
I did not know him well
But I meant no harm when I said
“Can I have a rubber?”
He turned to me with a comical smirk
And a look that was most awry
I wondered what his problem was
As he got this glint in his eye
He started to laugh, tears in his eyes
He was really quite amused
I thought his response was very rude
And I sat there rather confused
Through snorts of laughter, he had the nerve to ask
“Can I ask you to clarify?”
So again I said, louder
These antics made the teacher stare
She saw we had lost attention
She sternly asked what was going on
Once more I spoke, “Can I have a rubber?”
A look of realization dawned on her face
“Aha,” she said with a grin
She had heard of this happening somewhere before
“I know what’s come over him!”
She scrambled around in her desk for a while
And then pulled out a small pink disk
She held it high over her head
And said, “Do you mean this?”
“Yes” I exclaimed “I am not going crazy”
“A person who understands me”
“Do you know what rubber means in America?”
Said the teacher quite comically
“No”, I replied, bewildered and lost
But then it was clear what she meant
To Aussies, a rubber is an eraser
But here it is something quite different
So I broke the rule on how to blend in
Lucky kids weren’t quick to condemn
And now I am known as the new Aussie boy
Who asked his teacher for a condom

poetry slam
Nico Cooperman performs her work. COURTESY TONY TURNER

"Life's Mountain" by Nico Cooperman

I’ve been going to school for over 8 years
By the way, that’s most of my life
I’m only 11 - waiting to turn 12
And I already fear for my sanity
I’m seen as smart - there are high expectations
People set them before me, thinking I can pass them easily
They believe their expectations are like stepping stones
To me, they are like mountains
I struggle to climb, hands raw and bloody
My lungs rasp for breath, my oxygen scarce
It’s frigid and freezing, and I have no coat
Sometimes I fall; Nobody helps me
Each step is a struggle I must overcome
And when I reach the summit, I realize the mountain I climbed
Was the stepping stone
To the next mountain
This mountain is bigger, is rougher, is steeper
And even though I have not even begun to climb this one
I know for certain that when I reach the top
There will be yet another mountain for me to face
And I may not climb victorious
If I do not make it, I will be looked upon in shame
A disgrace, a disappointment, a stain onto their name
Will I be overlooked as if I never even tried?
Will my name have disappeared, my achievements brushed aside?
I don’t feel I can risk that, I’d rather stay and fight
I’ll struggle up the mountains, climbing up through day and night
But if I look to the right, there’s a nice, peaceful pond
I look to the left, there’s a lovely green meadow
If I dare to look down, there’s an easier path
And if I look straight up, there’s a shining bright rainbow
But the innocent pond is covered in ice
The grass in the meadow is hiding their thorns
The “easier path” is made of sharp rocks
And the beautiful rainbow will damage your eyes
So if you look at these, are the mountains so bad?
If you can see them for what they are?
And if you reach the top, is it not more rewarding
To finally see the stars?