Too Close for Comfort

Can trust and safety in the arts be captured through Zoom? A look at the 2020-2021 Hickman Poetry Slam.


Shakira Cross speaks out at the 2017 Poetry Slam.

Hickman students from the current sophomore class and earlier are more than familiar with the halls of the school and its sounds. There’s laughter to be found, not to mention playful bickering and plans to meet up after class. The announcements each morning are at the same time, tying weekdays together. Amid the usual promises of sports events and club meetings, the Creative Writing class advertises its Poetry Slam in the Little Theater twice a year. 

Of course, a physical gathering is not possible for the 2020-2021 school year. The event was described as “cozy and comfortable because of the close and trusting bond felt by Hickman’s writers” in an interview with event sponsor and Hickman teacher Nancy White. However, said closeness will need to change in nature with any upcoming iteration of the event. “I’m an optimist at heart and believe that we’ll use Zoom as just another variation on reaching out to others with the writing we create,” said White. “The world needs art now more than ever.”

White cites the Creative Writing seniors as the true leaders of the department, and goes on to say that the possibility of over two meetings per year due to non-physical space is “a bright spot in this confined haze we’ve all been in.” She mentioned how Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in lockdown under a different pandemic. Veteran performers seem to hold troubled feelings on the matter. “I would feel less comfortable online because there’s a certain genuine air to doing it in person, and having everyone in the same room feels more comfortable, with nice candles and ambiance. Online, the point would still be there, but it wouldn’t be the same,” says Gabe Harding (12). “Seeing people having their own voice, their own chance to read freestyle, and share ideas about themselves and their lives is really unique.” Echoing the sentiment, Keith Sumner (12) added, “I’d go to an online poetry slam, I think. I’d just rather do it in person.”