GOTHENBURG – One of the first things you notice is the finger snapping. Like crickets or little toys they fill the room. Getting louder and softer as the poem ebbs and flows. The words and emotions of young people make a poetry slam, this slam is called “Louder Than a Bomb,” it originated in Chicago, branched out to Omaha and then on Monday night made it’s first trip west of Lincoln, to the Sun Theater in Gothenburg.
“During a poem people snap their fingers,” Hannah Boyd a senior poet from Gothenburg, said, “in the middle of a poem if you hear something you like, you snap, showing you are unified with the poet. Also, if the poet is struggling, you snap, to show the audience’s connection with them.”
Gina Keplinger served as the master of ceremonies for the competition. LTAB is put on by a non-profit organization called the Nebraska Writers Collective. Keplinger said that LTAB started in Chicago, eventually donors saw it and wanted to bring it to Omaha and that is what happened in 2012 and it became known as “Louder Than a Bomb, Great Plains. Since then, she says, it’s expanded.”
“We’ve grown, it’s huge.” Keplinger said, “we are Louder Than a Bomb, Great Plains, so acknowledging that is really important and coming out here was absolutely a really good move.”
People are randomly picked out of the crowd to judge each poem on a scale from 0-10. If the crowd assembled doesn’t like the judge’s marks, they will let them know. While it is a competition, it is a friendly one.
“The environment is just so positive,” Boyd said,” it’s unlike anything else you compete in. Often when you compete against other schools it’s, ‘I don’t like you and you don’t like me,’ here everyone is snapping at each other’s poems, there is just so much positivity.”
The highest rated poem of the night came from Ogallala junior Emma Krab. Her poem was called “I don’t want to die here.” In it, the first year poet talked about school violence.
“I wrote the poem after the Parkland shootings,” Krab said, “my poem was a response not only to Parkland, but to the division that occurred after Parkland. It’s not about dividing people, its about focusing on safety. Silence is not an option, so many kids, including myself, are just fearful to come to school.”
Krab said this is the first time she has performed poetry live. She said she doesn’t typically write poetry, but she does enjoy writing. Being able to say the poem out loud was cathartic for her. She said the atmosphere is very supportive.
The main rule of LTAB is that it must be the poet’s own work. Gothenburg senior Blake Riley said that makes it special.
“It is from the heart,” Riley said, “you get a feeling of who everyone is. It gives you an outlet for feelings. A lot of people like to use it to talk about the bad things in your life, but you can use it to talk about the good things too. It’s definitely a good outlet for your feelings.”
“It is incredible, ” Keplinger said, “every year I think I will not be surprised or I will get bored with a poem, but its just not true. Every poet brings something important or interesting. It’s inspiring and very energizing. I leave the room with more energy than I had coming in. ”
The competitions continue through April, culminating at Holland Center in Omaha.
Four teams competed on Monday at the Sun; Gothenburg, Hastings, Ogallala and North Platte. Gothenburg received the most points from the judges and was declared the winner.