Friday, July 18, 2008


A young relative of mine is participating in a celebration of poetry this week. The event is amazing: gut-wrenching, funny, lyrical, pumped-up, engrossing, somber, and just, well, amazing. Strangely, you wouldn't know anything about it from reading the local press. There's no coverage. Not an inch. Bloggers, yes; newsmedia, no. This is sad because what's being presented are works of art, some of them really, really good. It's poetry that's written, staged, and performed by the authors, some individually, some in groups of two to four. The subject matter ranges from deeply and painfully personal to historical and topical to social and political. The writing standard is high and the emotions are strong. The audience becomes deeply involved in the performaces, encouraging, punctuating, feeding back deep feelings as they're being received.

Some details:

The event involves young people in their teens, participating as teams in a style of judged competition where you find kids responding to each other's work in a most uncompetitive way (cheering others' work as much as their own). They come from across the country. The venues are small theater spaces. A web page called UpWords calls the event a poetry party. In announcing the event this site says:
Across the land, teenagers participate in poetry slams and other events organized by teachers, schools, local poets, community organizers and youth workers. Although the slam is a competitive event, competition is de-emphasized and commitment to craft and growth in the writer as person and community member are encouraged. From these local events and programs, 4-6 poets (13-19 years old) are selected to represent their city at Brave New Voices. More than 400 young poets will participate in this year’s festival held in Washington DC July 2008 representing over 44 parts of the country and globe.
Here's a link to a video of the opening ceremony: Video from the 11th Annual International Youth Poetry Slam.

Some other links:

- press release for the event (pdf)
- Festival home page
- Anouncement on the FreeinDc site.
- A blog post on the event
- Another blog post

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