By Charity Yoro
Jordan Wolmut won the title of grand slam champion at the #Virtualandia! 2021 finale on Thursday, April 29. Wolmut, a senior at Benson High School, is no stranger to poetry; she also won the 2019 Verselandia! competition and is a participant on the Brave New Voices team co-led by Literary Arts. After the event, the Youth Programs team chatted with Jordan about her experience competing in #Virtualandia! this year.
How does it feel to be a two-time Grand Slam Champion?
It’s a good feeling… it feels nice to be heard. I never expected this when I was younger. I’m proud of my poem. And I’m glad I’m going out of my senior year with a bang!
As a former winner at the in-person event, Verselandia!, how did the virtual experience compare to the previous year’s?
It was a lot different, because I’m used to having a crowd and having a reaction. I know when the crowd is connected and actually listening, and I love those reactions… not just feeling supported, but also hearing it. Those reactions help you go twice as hard. Like in my poem [Trigger Warning], I started breaking down… usually in a poem like that, you’ll get a “you got it!” or snaps, but this time, I just had to collect myself. But it was still a cool experience this year, too.
Both your poems this year were incredibly powerful, both in content and performance. Especially Trigger Warning, your winning poem. What/who were your inspiration(s) in writing that piece?
I actually wrote that poem in response to an experience I had at another poetry performance. It was the final round [of the competition] and none of the poets gave trigger warnings. One was so powerful and intense… there was actually an apology issued after the performance. That made me mad… literally, a girl broke down in that space, and the judges deducted points for it. Another girl who was sitting with me at the time said [about the performance]: “That’s a poem I should have wrote a long time ago.” So I was thinking about that experience. And about being heard.
What advice would you give to fellow poets?
Write whatever you want. It’s your poem, it’s your paper, it’s your pencil, it’s your words. Never stop writing.
Write whatever you want. It’s your poem, it’s your paper, it’s your pencil, it’s your words. Never stop writing.—Jordan Wolmut
Lastly, what’s next for you? Is poetry part of your post-graduation plan?
Yes! I’m going to be competing in Brave New Voices this summer, which I think is one of my last years competing. Other than that, I’m having a hard time deciding… college, staying close to family in Portland. Yeah, I’m still deciding!
Any last words you’d like to share?
I just want to say, everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. No matter out loud or on paper.
Congratulations to the #Virtualandia! 2021 Finalists
1st Place: Jordan Wolmut, Benson High School
2nd Place: Shala Santa Cruz Krigbaum, Franklin High School
3rd Place: Lilli Rudine, Franklin High School
4th Place: Emma Hayes, Ida B. Wells High School
5th Place: Gigi Bareilles, Franklin High School
This year’s first #Virtualandia! event would not have been possible without all the participating students: Asher Lego, Kate Franzen, Catherine Latimer, Thomas Figueiredo, Jourdan Dimoff, Lacorius Jenkins, Jade Leeman. Iana Musat, Sadie Wallsmith, Antonio Pietrok, Bennett George, Ayla Power, Sophia Atkins, Quintana Jones, Yixian Angel Liu, Annie Pham, Elyssa Guay, Anna Gunderson, Jazlynn Davis, and our calibration poet, Alana Anderson.
Many thanks also to our judges Se-ah-dom Edmo, Mitchell S. Jackson, Maurice King, S. Renee Mitchell, and Karis Stoudamire-Phillips who graciously volunteered their time and took on the difficult task of selecting this year’s finalists and winner, as well as our community judges who helped narrow and score our first round of applicants, and Nancy Sullivan and the librarians who founded Verselandia! which laid the foundation for this virtual initiative.
Thanks as well to our A/V partners, swag producer, and sponsors who helped bring the competition to life: The AV Department, Levelheaded Press, Henry V, the Bodecker Foundation, Stoel Rives LLP, Wieden + Kennedy, and the Regional Arts & Culture Council.
Lastly, thank you to our illustrious emcee, Anis Mojgani, whose patience, good-naturedness, and humor made the virtual event all the more enjoyable!