Teens Spit for Prizes Tonight at Knicks Poetry Slam


It is a shock and a pleasure to see the Times use the phrase “spit poems from the depths of their tortured teenage souls” in a lede, though they find it necessary to explain later that the verb is “the teenagers’ favorite term for performing their work.” The reporter, Liz Robbins, refers to youths preparing for “the finals of the New York Knicks Poetry Slam Program,” begun in 2003 to give wordy high schoolers a leg up. The current edition culminates in a championship match tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where winners of the “Spittin’ Prize” and “Written Prize” will receive educational grants, scholarships, Nike gear for themselves and their classmates, and other rewards.

Audio is provided at the Times website, so you can hear battler Elton Ferdinand III’s rap on “his mute uncle in Guyana, a man misunderstood,” in which he “mimics his uncle’s struggling moan, a poetic device that makes his listeners uncomfortable.” Less dire is combatant Diesel, shown above performing a brand-name-intensive rhyme (“It was clear to see that her and I/ were not on the same Chanel/ She took me as a joke/ So I took her as a brick Versace bag/ and traded her in for something less conspicuous”). You can view other videos of current and previous years’ contenders here, and watch Knicks guard Nate Robinson dance for the ladies at a preliminary slam event here.


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