“We’re really not known for winning anything except sports, so we have to fight for everything we earn.” Lamar Jordan lives in Chicago. His sense of context, his self-awareness, is hard-won. A young man in process, Lamar introduces himself in Louder Than a Bomb using his nickname, “The Truth,” and then he tells it. “When I was growing up,” says this 19-year-old, “I was a bit of a troublemaker and I did some things I regret.” Now, in 2008, he’s a member of Steinmetz High School’s slam poetry team, in Chicago. And now he has a new truth to tell. Lamar’s story is one of several told in Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel’s film, which premieres on Oprah’s OWN Documentary Club on 5 January.
The film shows how hard the young poets work, their investments and their choices, their different roads to the slam called Louder Than a Bomb. It also shows that the contestants are well aware of the contradiction in what they do. Though poems are immeasurable, they are also subject to judgments: each performance earns points, like Olympic dives, cards held up by judges numbered one through 10. “It’s an outrageous thing, it’s a stupid thing, giving scores and numbers to poems,” admits Kevin Coval, LTAB’s co-founder. Slams are a means more than an end, a means of “learning about new people and understanding new people and really feeling inspired by people who are very different than you,” says Adam Gottlieb, from Northside College Prep. “I would like to say that that’s changing the world. And if not, it’s definitely coming much, much closer.”
See PopMatters’ review.