Two decades ago, San Francisco-based Youth Speaks held one of the country’s first teen poetry slams. The event was a success and helped launch a nationwide youth poetry movement. Founder James Kass says he wanted to create a “safe space… for young people to speak out against what they feel is injustice, to celebrate their lives, to be a spark for change.” Kass and two young poets join us to perform their work and talk about the legacy of Youth Speaks.

Gabriel Cortez, poet mentor, Youth Speaks
Tamia Romo, poet, member of SPOKES, the student advisory board of Youth Speaks
James Kass, founder and executive director, Youth Speaks

  • Niketana

    I don’t think the new orality is replacing poetry for the page (which can be read aloud). I see the new trend as forming a new branch, though in some ways it represents a return to poetry as sung performance–bards, troubadours, etc.

    Most experienced poets don’t wait for the muse, because they know they would wait a long time. They do little things to get started, like just starting–a word, a phrase, an image. The emphases have been reversed but both are relevant still. Slam poetry seems to emphasize the live performance and engagement with the audience now; poetry for the page internalizes a reader, who may read the poem aloud. Slam poetry seems to seek impact through volume and provocation; poetry for the page works with language in a more nuanced way, knowing that the audience (reader) can reread it, many times if necessary.

  • Blueagle

    I am old school and never liked poetry slams. What happens to the creative and talented voice who doesn’t win the slam or walks away without the $$honey pot? Are they to be silenced or made to think that what they are expressing is not good enough? Maybe..or maybe not!..I still don’t like them. Maybe more egos need to be slammed and more respect or the written words needs to take place…I’m just saying…. hollering loud and saying nothing! Is this how we guide our young?

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor