Broadcasting from homes, young poets bare their souls

Littleton Public Schools students share intimate prose on life and love


There was no auditorium for Littleton Public Schools’ 10th annual Poetry Slam. No crowd. The applause was pre-recorded.

But the students, now on their ninth month since COVID-19 upended their young lives, poured their hearts out to an audience of faces on screens.

“The power and energy you get from these students is amazing,” said Jovan Mays, a renowned Denver-area poet who emceed the event alongside Nate Thompson, the school district’s director of social, emotional and behavior services.

Many of the event’s 19 poets broadcast from their bedrooms, with backdrops of posters and string lights, with readings often punctuated by the sounds of crying babies or barking dogs.

Though contestants hailed from the district’s four high schools, the five finalists came from just two: three from Littleton High School, and two from Options High School — an outsize showing for the district’s smallest high school.

The top five poems conveyed deeply personal themes.

Ayla Bennett, a Littleton High School student, wrote about love and loss.

“I’m angry,” Bennett wrote. “I’ve never written a poem like this to you. One that’s not as gentle as before. This will be brute force, like carving my name into your wall ... I have cried for days over you, I have torn apart threads and stitched myself back together. You have betrayed me like the tide betrays the shore. Figure that one out on your own. I’m done chasing.”

Kenna Boldt, from Littleton High School, wrote a letter to adults from a teenager.

“I’m in this weird phase of life where every corner I round feels like I’ve been backed into a dark alley,” Boldt wrote. “I have so many labels and costumes and I’m just trying to figure out which ones fit best ... I have plans, I know where I’m going, I just don’t know how to get there, so help me.”

Third-place finisher Kerissa Ferguson, an Options student, wrote about meeting a girl named Hope who changed her life.

“All my hope to find any sign I wasn’t broken was lost, but that year Hope moved to my canyon ... her bright blue eyes were a gift and a curse, but they taught me living when I was just surviving.”

Second-place winner Medhaa Lakshman, from Littleton High School, wrote about watching a man and woman in love — from the perspective of their cat.

“Let them have their stardust, hearts and butterflies,” she wrote. “She talks of chasing the clouds for him. He thinks of when he can leave. She makes battle plans against the gods, he makes battle plans against her. The girl tells him she loves him, and likewise my whiskers can catch their lies.”

First-place winner Joseph Brandt, an Options student, wrote about battling his worst enemy: himself.

“I become lost in a war zone,” Brandt wrote. “At first it’s hard to see through clouds of smoke, dust kicked up from the ground ... It’s not certain who I’m up against, but one thing is beyond doubt: I am going to lose ... As I watch myself standing tall, I am watching myself crumple. I realize it was me rampaging. I’d rather fight with me than against me. I am tired of being my own enemy.”

Mays said helping the students workshop their poems was inspiring.

“When you see folks trying like this, it’s like watching an egg as it hatches,” Mays said. “They’re fighting to get out, and you want to help them get out. These poems are truly raw commentary on their lives.”


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