The Tucson Festival of Books exceeded my wildest expectations, despite occasional frustration of long lines for many of the author conversations and panels and the limited seating in others. I could write pages about the six discussions by famous writers that I was able to participate in, which included:
- Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel
- Ridley Pearson and Luis Alberto Urrea
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Gail Sheehy
- Ally Carter, Jenny Han, and Sarah Mlynowski
- Marja Mills
But, because today is Arts Advocacy Day, my Festival post is going to highlight The Tucson Youth Poetry Slam (TYPS). Attending a poetry slam has been on my “to do” list forever, so TFOB seemed like as good a place as any to finally do it. Billed as “Young Voices of Southern Arizona” and with an irresistible call-to-action, “Youth! Voice! Equity! Power!” this one, under the umbrella of the group “Spoken Futures, Inc.”, seemed particularly appealing.
My friend Melissa and I took our seats with anticipation, unsure what to expect. We knew the basics of a slam; that it’s a spoken word contest with a time limit and no censorship, though poets are encouraged to choose their words for the greatest impact, rather than shock value and no “hate speech” is allowed. The Tucson group welcomes all languages and styles of poetry and the group’s goal seemed to be building community rather than tearing it down, which appealed to both of us. We were blown away! If you want to hear what’s on teens' minds these days, in no uncertain terms, this is the place to find out. They’re not professional poets but their concerns and observations are spot-on when they speak about things that are important to them and their futures. Here’s a few lines to illustrate this:
On getting a GED: People roll their eyes and tell me “Good luck with that”.
On undocumented immigrants: We fight every day and we barely make a sound.
On health and family issues: I was dealt a hand that might cause others to fold.
On self: I hold onto things that break too easily, like pencils and people.
On school budget cuts to the arts: You already have 24% of our life; what more can you take from us? Art-there’s no money in it, only numbers count. You steal the only color we’ve got.
And, on why they write poetry: I don’t write to be questioned. I write to be understood.
Don’t we all…April is National Poetry Month and I’d like to encourage you to put aside a few hours and attend a youth poetry slam in your town or city. Don’t go alone, take a friend, young or old. I promise, it will be worth it!