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Seattle's Teen Poets To Face Off In Biggest 'Slam' Of The Year

The night before Seattle's biggest competition of the year for the city's young slam poets, Koha Farr was understandably anxious.

"Ridiculously nervous," the 19-year-old competitive slam poet admitted after his Thursday evening practice. "But I'm ready. I'm ready for tomorrow."

Farr is performing at Town Hall Seattle in Friday night's "Grand Slam," in which teens who've qualified for this final competition will vie for a chance to represent the city at a national slam poetry festival.

Up against 11 other teens, Farr will perform his own poetry in front of judges. The highest-rated poets will advance to the Brave New Voices Festival, which takes place in Philadelphia in July. It's a serious competition, but with an even deeper purpose, says Farr.

"It's a special place where you  go to share yourself," said Farr, who first got involved at the urging of a teacher while he attended Cleveland High School. After holding a poetry slam in school, the teacher pointed him toward the competitive slams put on by the group Youth Speaks Seattle.

On Thursday night, Farr visited Youth Speaks' weekly writing circle at Rainier Beach Community Center to get feedback before his performance. He ran through one of his poems for Raven Taylor, who who won the competition as a high school sophomore in 2011.

"You definitely have time to slow down a little bit," Taylor advised. 

The former champion says the competition is nerve-wracking, but just as exciting, too. Poets write and perform about any number of topics — from their experiences growing up, to their love of Seattle, to the power of poetry itself. Taylor says the energy of a performance can be incredible.

"It's pretty much the same as music shows," Taylor, 19, said. "We like people to get just as hyped as if they're listening to music, because poetry is some realness."

The Grand Slam starts at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for youth.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.