Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) is a month-long competition for poets aged 12 to 19. It was founded after the September 11, 2001 attacks by Kevin Coval and Anna West of nonprofit organization Young Chicago Authors.
Michael Haeflinger, a poet who volunteered with LTAB in Chicago, moved to Tacoma a few years ago and launched an LTAB competition there in 2016. Local poet and OLY ARTS contributor Christina Butcher serves as event coordinator for this year’s event on behalf of Write253. “I love working with youth,” she says, “and the poetry’s good. If you didn’t know that these were youth, you would not [differentiate based on] the quality of work.” She expects over a dozen teams to compete, including squads from Olympia High School and North Thurston High School. Judges include filmmaker, writer and OLY ARTS contributor Jonah Barrett and Amy Solomon-Minarchi, Olympia’s poet laureate for 2018. North Thurston’s 2018 duo placed in the top three.
This year Write253 added an independent slam for “College-Age” (19-24) poets. This competition, which sends winning poets to perform alongside teens at the youth finals, begins at Anthem Coffee in Tacoma at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16. The point of this college event, Butcher says, is “stepping into your creative community as an adult and taking charge of meeting other people who are trying to do the same thing.”
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, Butcher and Haeflinger will co-host a recording of Blue Cactus Press’ The Prickly Pear Podcast, interviewing guest poets Britteney Black Rose Kapri and José Olivarez before a live audience at Tacoma’s King’s Books. Keynote speaker for this year’s competition is Abby E. Murray, a lauded poet and instructor at University of Washington Tacoma.
Butcher says LTAB “focuses on getting youths to express themselves through creative arts positively, and also to get them meeting and hanging out with and building relationships with people that they otherwise would never meet.” Winners receive token gifts like $20 gift certificates to King’s Books. Butcher explains, “People understand that the point is in no way winning, and it is in no way how many points you get. … The point is the poem.”
Independent College Slam
2 p.m. Saturday, March 16
1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
Live recording of The Prickly Pear Podcast
7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20
218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma
Louder Than a Bomb Youth Finals
6 p.m. Saturday, March 23W
Fawcett Hall, Alma Mater,
1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma
$10 suggested donation