All in the spoken word

Junior writer showcases her passion for poetry


Photo by Photo used with permission of Caitlyn Wenzel

Caitlyn Wenzel, junior, performing her poetry. After placing second at “Slammin’ the Sundown”, a recent poetry slam in Naperville, Wenzel will perform next at “Louder than a Bomb”, the world’s largest youth festival, to showcase her beliefs.

“‘Cause while our world is in shambles, and our minds are a mess, all these lyrical masterpieces put our brains to the test, so do your best,” she says, and the crowd snaps in appreciation. Although she is participating in a competition, the atmosphere in the Neuqua Valley High School library is less competitive than it is supportive of her spoken word. 

Last weekend, Caitlyn Wenzel, junior, placed second in the indie poet category at “Slammin’ the Sundown”, a poetry slam hosted at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. For her performance, Wenzel showcased one of her own poems, a piece titled “Spoken Word”.

“The entire poem is about how we need more writing, we need more spoken words, we need more people speaking out and sharing their opinions,” Wenzel said. “There’s a lot of bad things in the world, there’s a lot of heartbreak and hardship and the world seems like it’s always falling apart. But I feel like writing is so important, as a catharsis kind of thing where you’re just releasing your emotions in a creative medium, or  sharing your opinions and having a voice in our culture, and that’s what really inspired this poem.”

In addition to performing her piece at “Slammin’ the Sundown”, Wenzel will also be participating in “Louder than a Bomb”, the world’s largest youth poetry festival, dedicated to “giving young people a voice because usually, they’re pushed to the side because ‘we’re too young to know what’s going on,’” Wenzel said.

“There’s this phrase that’s really important in spoken word competitions in general that is ‘The point is not the point. The point is the poetry,’” Wenzel said. “We’re playing this silly game where everyone gets graded for pouring their heart and soul out and you’re putting a number on something really subjective. And so sometimes that can hurt, but the point is not to get the most points but to share your perspective, to share your poetry, and to connect with the audience and just sort of vibe together. So I think in that way,  my poem really highlights those ideals of Louder than a Bomb.”

Although Wenzel says she has liked writing poetry since middle school, she did not get into poetry performance until her freshman year of high school, when she went to a poetry slam and fell in love with the community.

“I didn’t win anything but the audience really liked my poem and it was fun and energizing and made me go, ‘Yeah, I want to share my poetry and if I get a score that’s even better,’” Wenzel said. “Performing is really a confidence booster because the poetry community is so supportive and audiences snap to show that support when you’re messing up or if you’re just on a roll and they’re connecting with it. People react to you and it’s very comforting to build that connection.”

While her love for poetry slams is a more recent development, Wenzel says that she has always been drawn to spoken-word poetry. 

“I think both words and silence can have a lot of power, so I’m really drawn to performance poetry because it’s not just about the words you use but also how you use them,” Wenzel said. “You’re giving your heart and soul to the audience, because poetry is a very personal and private sort of art form, and you get to get so intimate with people you don’t even know. I write a lot of poems about self-love and self-confidence, which reflect my own personal struggles. It’s almost like airing out my own dirty laundry. But I’m doing it to help other people going through similar things.”

For people who have never thought about writing poetry, Wenzel recommends for anyone and everyone to join LZ’s poetry club, and give writing a try.

“Anyone can write poetry. It’s a skill that you can get better at as long as you have emotions and experiences and things you want to talk about,” Wenzel said. “ You don’t have to rhyme or be in a specific form; poetry is just about writing from the heart. Poetry connects people, and I think that’s a really cool thing to explore.”

If you would like to listen to Wenzel’s poem “Spoken Word”, come down to the library on Writer’s Day, February 11th, first period to hear her perform.