Spotlight: Louder Than a Bomb

Young Chicago Authors Present: “Louder Than A Bomb”

On Sunday February 12, 2012 the greatest musical artists of the year were honored at this year’s Grammy Awards.  Talent ranging from country singer Taylor Swift to rap icons Jay-Z and Kanye West were recognized- all amid the tacit devastation of the tragic death of the legendary Whitney Houston. Stars honored the passing of the phenomenal woman with the unforgettable voice, and new monumental voices were recognized, most notably the raw talent of the British phenomenon Adele.  All of these voices, winners or not, go home at the end of the night as celebrities, glorified for their craft.  It is time to draw attention to another incredible display of talent in its own right, the art of spoken poetry.  This art form does not grace the radio airwaves (maybe sometimes on NPR) and does not occupy top sales charts of iTunes.  However, there is a celebration that honors not professionals but youth with uninhibited talent, sharing their stories at Chicago’s Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival.

It is extremely refreshing to know that at a time when youth have more access to merely listen to their favorite artists, they are choosing instead to share their own stories through a uniquely candid form of expression: spoken word poetry.  Louder Than A Bomb is the world’s largest poetry slam, growing from the Young Chicago Author’s event to a national phenomenon spreading to other cities around the country.

The participants include more than 60 teams and over 600 kids, all bringing one weapon to the contest: their stories.  Without attending this event it is hard to imagine the power it can have over not only the participants but also the lucky members of the audience. Perhaps this outcome can be measured by the fact that a documentary has been compiled about Louder Than A Bomb that has been met with critical acclaim and staggering reviews.  Winning more than seventeen festival prizes is impressive, but what is more astounding is what people had to say.

From being deemed “one of the best documentaries of 2011” by Roger Ebert, other journalists shared the same powerful reactions. Ryan Syrek, of The Reader (Omaha) declares,

“Louder Than a Bomb captures the inexplicable magic that occurs when the seemingly least likely candidates reach for something like poetry as a lifeline, seize it and climb to heights unimaginable. It is a rare majesty too few people get to witness. Until now. ” (

Remember, he is talking about a documentary that is chronicling a youth poetry slam, the unfiltered talents of students wishing to merely share their words with the world.

Just a trailer for the film is enough to give anyone goose bumps, leave even the greatest skeptics wanting more. Participants are introduced along with their affirmations about the power of poetry in their lives that led them to seek a spot in LTAB.  Stories shared range from growing up with parents as drug-addicts, to the pain of trying to comfort a brother with special needs.  One statement from a student poet resonates with the overarching theme of the festival: “Writing a poem does not change the world…learning about new people and understanding new people and really feeling inspired…I would like to think that’s changing the world”

The pure, humble intentions of these incredibly talented young poets are quite honestly overwhelming.  The effects of this experience speaks for itself: according to their website, LTAB “boasts an 85% high school graduation rate”, and zero incidents of violence in its ten years of operation.  This article comes at a fitting time for the LTAB participants: the prelims for the festival will be held at Columbia College Chicago at the end of the month, with the team finals scheduled for the beginning of March.  The love of language brings these poets together, but ultimately their stories will set them apart.

In addition to the slam, in Chicago, Massachusetts is preparing the first Louder Than a Bomb for teens from the entire state. For more information on Massachusetts’ first LTAB competition, visit:

For more on the documentary, please visit

For more on the organization behind the celebration, and tickets for the main event please visit:


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