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Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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May 7, 2008 1:33 AM

They're Poets and They Know It.

Posted by Rod Mar

Seems even when I'm not shooting sports, I'm either shooting in a sporting venue (like the Dalai Lama at KeyArena or Qwest Field), or I'm shooting a competition of some sort.

Last month (okay, TWO months ago), the competition was a youth poetry slam.

Why two months ago? Well, sometimes it just takes that long to get stuff into the paper. Seriously, feature stories do have longer "shelf life" than news stories, and this falls into that category.

Youth Speaks, a local non-profit, has been holding a competition for young poets vying in slams to be part of a five-member team who will travel to Washington, D.C. later this month for a national contest.

On this night, 12 contestants took to the darkened stage and stepped into the spotlight in front of a panel of judges:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 2000, 1/6 sec, f2.8)

One by one the young poets read, no -- performed, no -- that's not right either, LIVED their poetry in timed segments. Some were eliminated after each round until only three were left to advance.

Arianne Bergman referenced the old song "Fly Me to the Moon" during her poetry, proving that the youth of today can appreciate the words of the past:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 3200, 1/50 sec, f2.8)

Mikeya Jackson-Harper used body language to get her point across as she took her turn beneath the lights:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 80mm, ISO 2000, 1/2.5 sec, f8)

When shooting an event that features person after person standing in the same environment, I always look for small details that can add to the visual impact of the story. It not only adds depth to the storytelling, it breaks up the visual monotony:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/60 sec, f2.8)

Ronnie Reynolds captured the attention of the audience with his raw, edgy poetry. His body language alternately suggested rage and defiance along with solitude and insecurity.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 110mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 70mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 120mm, ISO 2000, 1/100 sec, f2.8)

Despite the competitive nature of the slam, everyone in attendance cheered openly for one another. If a line was forgotten, the listeners rubbed their hands together creating a whooshing noise that served as encouragement for a momentarily lost poet. As Reynolds forgot his place, he joined the crowd in rubbing his hands as he searched for the words he'd lost.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 1600, 1/40 sec, f2.8)

Reynolds, Bergman and Jackson-Harper all advanced to the next round and will compete on May 18.

Here's a link to the story and more information.

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