EDISON, NJ - The Poetry Slam, a competition where poets get to read their original work in front of a crowd Thursday, April 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. at John P. Stevens High School auditorium and it is a free event.

The topic for the Poetry Slam is racism and contestants have two minutes to impress the judges with their verbal wit and style.

Out of over 40 students who applied, only 20 have been selected to recite their poem. To apply, students had to write a poem related to racism and submit it to a panel of teachers and administrators who closely reviewed the entries and chose the candidates who would perform at the event.

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One of the contestants for the Poetry Slam is, Lisa Furtado, a freshmen at JPS.

"I practice for about a half hour every day on my poem. I usually just recite it a few times to make sure I put enough emotion in but not talk too fast or too slow." said Furtado.

To prepare, Furtado also attended the weekly meetings held at JPS led by Emily Zazanis, Spanish teacher and Darlene Rich, Theatre Arts teacher at the school. They helped the students with reciting their poems and gave them feedback. For Furtado, practicing her poem in this setting also made her comfortable around a crowd.

Even though she has been practicing regularly, Furtado says that she's still extremely nervous in fear of messing up.

“I usually hate standing up in front of a crowd. It's not something I'm really used to yet. But I am really passionate about the Poetry Slam, so something that I can easily get over isn't going to stop me,” Furtado adds.

Contestant, Shane Edwers, a sophomore at JP Stevens is also getting prepared for the event by practicing his lines and putting in the appropriate amount of emotion.

“I’m doing it to show people that anyone can do this if they put their mind into it,” Edwers said. Edwers found it easy to write his poems while listening to music. “It comes naturally to me,” he continued.

“I am excited for the contestants to show the crowd what they got!” Zazanis said.

With around 20 kids competing, performing in front of a crowd is understandable.

“I feel a little nervous but then again who isn’t nervous about something big like this?” Edwers added.

His poem is about his thoughts and feelings about how racism affects one’s mind. Edwers usually practices the lines of his poem by himself when he comes home from track meets and practices.

Furtado was inspired to compete because she had and been affected by racism before when people used to ask her why she has a Portuguese name when she's of Indian descent. She also became passionate about the subject after her eighth grade English teacher at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Rina Nilooban introduced her to poetry.

 “I don’t know what it is but poetry has a way to make you lose yourself in it,” Edwers pointed out.

Anam Qureshi, a freshman and Sumaya Jawad, a sophomore, at J.P. Stevens High School,  participating in the journalism internship program with TAP Into Edison