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While the Wizards’ playoff run has overshadowed most other tournament news of the past weeks, those of us who can’t tell a layup from an alley-oop have trained our attention on a different match: the Beltway Poetry Slam Finals. It may not be as sweaty as a basketball game, but in this town, the crowd’s just as rowdy and the competition’s just as stiff.

Local poets have been gunning for top-ranking spots at qualifying events all year, and the eight winners of last month’s semifinals will compete at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Tuesday, May 13. Four will go on to represent the DMV at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland this summer—a prestigious prize worth bragging about. Don’t expect any Harding/Kerrigan-level sabotage, but I’d bet on at least a little side-eye.

Here, the competitors share snippets of their winning poems from the last round.

“A hater is just a person with their heart all jumbled up” Pages Matam, “Wings”

 

“Our stories cannot be checked into boxes they are in the forgotten undocumented we are the blending and bending of backbones deformed and reformed beings.” Elizabeth Acevedo, “Afro-Latina”

 

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying, that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t.” Clint Smith, “Silence”

 

“The mouth and tongues of limbs and sweat speak far too often without being spoken to.” Joseph Green, “How to Break- (a guide to leaving some you still love)”

 

“There’s something about letting go of loved ones, you get a free hand to hold onto the better things that they wanted for you.” Drew Law, “Coalminer’s Daugher”

 

“He told me if you keep trying so hard to kill your demons, you’ll just get bored and start to kill your angels too” Jackson Carrera, “Grandfather”

 

“I’ve learned the difference between writing a poem, and becoming one.” G Yamazawa, “Growth”

 

     

“God is a 4 part harmony heard from 4 corners of the Earth, an R&B run over a rock ballad solo with a guitar made stars.” Roscoe Burnems, “Art of God”