Alex Hurley. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

By Joycelyn Cabrera

Alex Hurley had never participated in a poetry slam prior to October’s All-Maricopa Slam. Hurley, a junior at Maricopa High School, competed against a few teens and many adults.

Each competitor prepared three poems for three rounds, each round judged on a 1-10 scale by a panel of five judges. Alex was a favorite from the beginning with enthusiastic audience reception.

Being one of the youngest participants in the slam, Hurley surprised the judges and audience with powerful, evocative poems filled with emotion. With original poetry “The Gun,” “Beauty” and “Bitten Fingernails,” Hurley’s themes of struggle earned him first place at the slam, opening a spot for him to compete at the All-State Poetry Slam in January.

“The Gun” was written in reference to the end of Hurley’s sophomore year after his participation with the MHS spring musical, Beauty and the Beast.

“I was feeling very fake, everything felt fake and unreal,” Hurley said. He created a metaphor describing both his identity struggles and his support system – contrasting the two different sides of his life at the time.

Hurley’s most recent poem, “Beauty,” was performed while unfinished at the poetry slam.

Alex has been writing since his freshman year, beginning as a coping mechanism. He wrote “Bitten Fingernails” over the summer of his sophomore year. His interest in poetry grew as he noticed the rhythm that comes with poems and the ability to communicate emotion through poetry.

“It makes people realize something about themselves and about other people. It sends a message,” Hurley said.

He gets his inspiration from his own struggles and the struggles of others around him.

Hurley describes performing at the All-Maricopa Slam as a nerve-racking and exhilarating experience. “It was kind of like achieving a dream.”

Hurley plans to bring old and new pieces to the All-State Poetry Slam, including “Bitten Fingernails.”

Bitten Fingernails

By Alex Hurley

my fingernails are tapping on piano keys
my fingertips used to be the only things that came out of my throat
and surely, i was done with my tweezing teeth
the clippings of sound that came out of my mouth
when i was unsure or clearly just bored
were comforting
a steady routine
a bad habit
a consistency i could depend on
an addiction
something i loved but its friction made my bones hurt with affliction
my fingers are always on restriction
bloodied and bruised
i often mused to the sound of pain coming from my brain


This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

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