Tag Archives: National Poetry Month

Bean Cycle, image by Tim Mahoney

“Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn’t just want to sit on the paper, that something about it demands to be heard out loud or witnessed in person.” -Sarah Kay

We’ve spent this week celebrating the form of slam poetry and spoken word. We have our favorite performances, but there are also countless local opportunities to get involved with slam poetry. We’ve compiled a list of places around Fort Collins where you can hear slam poetry, and even share some of your own. Let us know if you’ve found other fun ways to get involved with poetry, we’d love to know!

Places to share and exchange poetry

  • Poetry Slam at the Bean Cycle, Fort Collins: On the first Friday of every month at 7:30pm, visit the Bean Cycle where you can listen to or share your own spoken word. For the last 12 years, the event has been hosted by Larry “Booger” Holgerson. The Rocky Mountain Collegian says “this accepting social poetry environment is a great place to meet poets and reach a larger audience.” Read the Collegian’s article for more information about these slams.
  • Slamogadro at Avogadro’s Number, Fort Collins: This slam poetry competition happens on the last Sunday each month at Avogadro’s Number. Readings start at 7pm. Follow their Facebook page for more information.
  • I AM Open Mic, Fort Collins: This open mic happens on the last Friday each month at the Bean Cycle Roasters. People are encouraged to “come and share their expressions with the Fort Collins Community.” This event is not limited to poetry, working to bring together musicians, poets, comedians, storytellers, and all creative artists. Open mic starts at 8pm.
  • Lo Co Poetry Slam, Loveland: Make the trip down to the Lo Co Artisan Coffee House on the third Saturday of each month for a local poetry slam. Visit their events calendar for more information on events at the coffee house.
  • Punch Drunk Press, Denver: This organization is located in Denver and hosts various spoken work and poetry events. If you’re interested in Denver and Boulder’s poetry scene, watch their Facebook page for upcoming events.

 

Places to hear poetry

  • ForkSocket Reading Series, Fort Collins: This reading series is hosted by the MFA students at CSU, taking place at the Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House. It is an “attempt at an atypical reading structure intended to inform if not challenge conventional ideologies that have been associated with the negative situation.” These events happen multiple times throughout the school year so watch their Facebook page for event information.
  • The Creative Writing Reading Series, Fort Collins: While the series ended for the school year, the CSU English Department brings in poets and writers both from within and outside the Fort Collins community. Watch the English Department Facebook page for information about next school year’s series.
  • Dead Poet’s Society, CSU Fort Collins: CSU’s own Poet’s Society meets at the Wild Boar on alternating Friday’s from 7-9pm. Visit their Facebook page for more information about this group.
  • Greyrock Literary Club, CSU Fort Collins: This purpose of this club is to “spread awareness about the literary publishing community.” To learn more about this organization, visit their page.
  • The Greyrock Review, CSU Fort Collins: The GreyRock Review is the undergraduate literary magazine at CSU. Check out what others are writing, and submit some of your own creative work! Visit their website for more information.
  • Creative Writing Club, CSU Fort Collins: As their page explains, this club is “for writers who want to improve and share their work in an encouraging and constructive environment.” For more information about meeting times, you can visit their page.

Other ways to get involved locally

  • Front Ranges Writers: This is a group created to compile different readings and events around the Fort Collins area. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
  • CSU English Calendar of Events: For events that are happening at CSU, and within Fort Collins, you can watch our calendar of events for information on upcoming events or speakers.
  • Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House: This local non-profit literary/arts organization is a great source for all things creative. From a calligraphy class to knitting session and Poetry Slams, make sure you check their calendar of events for any upcoming events.

 

Next week is the final week of National Poetry Month 2017. We’ll be featuring local poets, those near and dear to our hearts.

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Today we are continuing our focus on spoken word poetry and poets. These are some of our favorite spoken word poems. What are some of yours?

Video: “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali

Video: Rachel Rostad – “Names”

Video: Neil Hilborn – “OCD”

Video: Sabrina Benaim – “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”

Video: Beautiful Body by Natalie Patterson

Video: Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women”

Tomorrow we’ll conclude our week focused on spoken word poetry with some local open mic opportunities.

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets. Today, we wanted to share some spoken word projects you might be interested in.


Button Poetry was founded in 2011, launching the first Button website and blog soon after. They have being promoting and producing spoken word poetry, creating high quality videos and books and recordings, ever since.

 


All Def Poetry is a YouTube channel presented by Russell Simmons that shares weekly performances by emerging and established spoken word artists. “Fresh, riveting, and featuring some of the best voices in the genre.”

 

Project VOICE is “a team of highly accomplished writers, performers, and educators,” using spoken word poetry to “entertain, educate, and inspire” They say on their website that, “Through award-winning performances and innovative workshops, Project VOICE is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.” In related news, Speakeasynyc is “is the leading youtube channel for great spoken word poets from around the US,” including the poets involved with Project VOICE.

 


Poetry Slam, Inc. is “a non-profit organization that organizes the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. PSi is also charged with overseeing the international coalition of poetry slams.” Their YouTube channel has a great collection of videos from these events and more.

 

Stayed tuned: Tomorrow we’ll be sharing some of our favorite spoken word poems. For today, have fun diving into these great projects and their collections.

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets.

Andrea Gibson is an award-winning poet and activist born in Calais, Maine. Gibson has lived in Boulder, Colorado since 1999. Gibson also goes by Andrew and uses gender-neutral pronouns. Their website bio says,

Andrea Gibson is not gentle with their truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led them to the forefront of the spoken word movement…Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.

Now, on their fifth full-length album FLOWER BOY and their second book THE MADNESS VASE, Gibson’s poems continue to be a rally cry for action and a welcome mat at the door of the heart’s most compassionate room.

A four-time Denver Grand Slam Champion, Gibson finished fourth at the 2004 National Poetry Slam, and third at both the 2006 and 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2008, Gibson became the first poet ever to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

When asked in a 2015 interview “Which poets and/or artists have influenced your work?”, Gibson said,

Oh, so many. Spoken word artists who have influenced me a great deal are Sonya Renee, Rachel McKibbens, Derrick Brown, Anis Mojgani, Patricia Smith…that list is so long I could keep writing names for the next hour. The first poet whose work I truly fell in love with was Mary Oliver, and her books are still the place I find the most comfort in.

Video: Andrea Gibson performing “Angels of the Get Through,” featuring musical accompaniment by Kaylen Krebsbach

Video: Andrea Gibson performing “A Letter to My Dog, Exploring the Human Condition,” featuring accompaniment by her dog, Squash

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For this week of National Poetry Month, we are featuring spoken word poetry and poets.

Image by Jhayne

Hearing a poem read by its author adds an additional dimension to any work.The inflection, the empty spaces, the tone. All of these pieces work together to create the art of spoken word.

Shane Koyzcan was born in 1976 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. At the National Poetry Slam in 2000, he won the Individual Championship title, making him the first Canadian to win. From there, he continued to garner success for his slam poetry. He went on to publish his first full-length poetry collection in 2005 called Visiting Hours. This work brought together a collection his spoken word and poetry, all dealing with the “intricacies of human emotions.”

His collection made The Guardian’s “Books of the year” list in 2005 for Koyzcan’s “ability to take you straight to the heart of what on the surface may seem like mundane actions but which turn out to be much more complex. He makes you feel the depth of love, joy, and pain in everyday life. Love, after all, is in everything.”

In 2010, he performed a portion of his “We Are More” piece at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In 2014, he released a digital spoken word album titled Silence Is A Song I Know All The Words To. Beyond the audio element, artist Gareth Gaudin illustrated his poems into a graphic novel of the same name.

Koyczan went viral online with his 2013 “To this Day Project.” The spoken word, set to an animated video on YouTube, addresses Koyzcan’s personal experiences with bullying. The video brought further attention to Koyzcan as a slam poet, and raised awareness about bullying.

Video: Shane Koyczan reads “To This Day”

As Koyczan explains, “My experiences with violence in schools still echo throughout my life but standing to face the problem has helped me in immeasurable ways. Schools and families are in desperate need of proper tools to confront this problem. This piece is a starting point.”

Through this project, Koyczan hopes to bring attention to the ongoing issue of bullying and its presence in schools today. As his poem explains, he grew up “surrounded by people who used to say/ that rhyme… about sticks and stones/ As if broken bones/ hurt more than the names we got called,/ and we got called them all.”

Spoken word has a way of sticking with people, hearing the words spoken with speed or suspended through dramatic silence. Koyzcan used his own stories to shed light on a problem children still have today. But, “to this day,” there’s still more we can do to help.

Shane Koyczan is currently on a Canadian and International tour that started in April and is continuing through June. This tour promotes his new album titled Debris. He will make an appearance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado on June 16-19. (For more information: http://bit.ly/2nNHrE6.)

Want to know more about this poet?

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Image by Marcelo Noah

John Updike described Billy Collins’s poems as “more serious than they seem.” And indeed, while Collins’ poems are often laugh-out-loud funny, many end on a touching, sometimes somber note.

Billy Collins is one of the most well-known and financially successful poets in the United States. He was the United States poet laureate from 2001 to 2003 and the New York State poet laureate from 2004 to 2006. On the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he was asked to write a commemorative poem, which he read to both houses of Congress. (See him read the poem on 9-11-2011).

Billy Collins has published fourteen collections of poetry to date. He has received the Mark Twain Prize for Humor Poetry and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His work has appealed numerous times in the Best American Poetry, and he edited the 2006 edition of this series.

Video: 3-year-old recites poem, “Litany” by Billy Collins. The little boy eventually got to meet the poet.

You also might enjoy this interview with Billy Collins from The Writer’s Almanac Bookshelf.

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The work of David Whyte moves between literary, psychological, theological and vocational worlds. As Whyte explains, his poetry and philosophy comes from “the conversational nature of reality.”

Born in 1955 in Mirfield Yorkshire, his poetry was influenced by bother his mother’s Irish heritage and what he called his “Wordsworthian childhood” in West Yorkshire. But his early life didn’t reflect his passion for poetry and philosophy. Instead, he received a degree from Bangor University in Marine Zoology.

Following his undergrad, he lived in the Galapagos Islands, working as a naturalist. He became quite the world traveler, leading various anthropological and natural history expeditions through the Andes, the Amazon, and the Himalayas.

It wasn’t until after Whyte moved to the States in 1981 that he began his career as a poet. In 1987, he began to share both his philosophy and writing with larger audiences. In an interview with Spirituality Health, he reflects on the role poetry and philosophy have played in his life, explaining that “I felt it in my infancy and first started articulating it in my early teens, but I actually thought that everyone was like this. So it was quite a surprise when people would be taken aback by the insights in my thoughts or my poetry.”

His first poetry collection, Songs for Coming Home, was published in 1984. Now, he boasts 7 volumes of poetry and 4 books of prose. Whyte has received an honorary degree from Neuman College in Pennsylvania. In 1994, he topped the best-seller list in the United States for his book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. Whyte is an associate fellow at both Templeton College and Saïd Business School in Oxford.

In 2014, he published his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. In an interview about this book, Whyte says that “there must be a place for everything in the human soul…it’s just a question of where they are in the hierarchy of experience.”

As human beings, it’s important to keep asking questions, and looking at the world around us. As Whyte reminds us, “you ask [a beautiful question] with your body. You ask it with your longing. And you can ask a beautiful question in complete silence with no verbalization whatsoever, just in the way you’re paying attention.”

 

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Mary Oliver and Percy. Photo by Rachel Giese Brown.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver, from her poem “The Summer Day”

Mary Oliver is a prolific contemporary poet. Her work has received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize, and Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She has also been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Oliver was born Maple Heights, Ohio in 1935. As a teenager, she worked with Norma Millay, sister of Edna St. Vincent Millay, to organize St. Vincent Millay’s papers. St. Vincent Millay’s work was a major influence on Oliver, as well as other romantic nature poets such as Walt Whitman, John Muir, and Elizabeth Bishop.

Oliver lived much of her life in Provincetown, Massachusetts with her partner Molly Malone Cook. She published her first book of poetry, No Voyage, and Other Poems, in 1963. She began to receive attention in 1983 when her fifth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize. Since 1990, she has published collections of poetry every one to two years, as well as numerous works of prose. Her latest book, Blue Horses, came out in 2014.

Video: Mary Oliver reading her poem “Wild Geese” Full text of the poem:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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Photo by: Larry Moyer, from http://www.shelsilverstein.com/

Some poetry connects generations together, drawing them in at an early age through fun rhymes and silly images. Shel Silverstein has become synonymous with children’s poetry, the type of poetry that sticks with its readers well into adulthood.

Most children are familiar with poet Shel Silverstein’s work and the fun pen drawings that often accompany his poems. Silverstein’s poetry has been translated into over 30 languages and sold over 20 million copies. Probably one of his best known poems is “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” which was also the name of one of his poetry collections.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1930, he began his career as a cartoonist at the age of 7 by tracing over Al Capp’s cartoons. Silverstein attended Roosevelt High School and got expelled from the University of Illinois which lead him to enroll in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Drafted by the United States Army before completing his degree, he served in Japan and Korea.

Silverstein then studied English at Roosevelt University where he got his first cartoon published in the student newspaper, Roosevelt Torch. From there, his career skyrocketed with cartoons published in Look, Sports Illustrated, and This Week. In 1957, he was a leading cartoonist for Playboy, a role which sent him around the world creating a travel journal.

His children’s books have gained popularity among young (and older) readers. His most notable collections include The Giving Tree (1964), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974), and A Light in the Attic (1981). A Boy Named Sue won the 1970 Grammy and Silverstein was inducted in the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2014, after his death in 1999.

Silverstein is known for not giving interviews, but was passionate about his work. In a 1975 interview with Publisher’s Weekly, he said “I have an ego, I have ideas, I want to articulate, to communicate but in my own way. People say they create only for themselves and don’t care if they’re published…I hate to hear talk like that. If it’s good, it’s too good not to share. That’s the way I feel about my work.”

But he also ended this interview explaining that “I’m not going to give any more interviews.” As readers, we will just have to let Silverstein’s work speak for itself.

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Image by Rajah Bose / Flickr

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, as well as the author of several books of poetry and fiction for children. Born to a Palestinian father and an American mother, she spent her adolescence in both Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas. Her experience of difference has influenced much of her work, and she’s called herself a “wandering poet.”

Her poetry is known for looking at the ordinary, deeply and with fresh eyes. Poet William Stafford said of Shihab Nye, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

Naomi Shihab Nye told Contemporary Authors: “I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime…Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.”

Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

~“Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Video: Naomi Shihab Nye reads and talks about her poem “Kindness”

Also, you might want to list to this really great interview with Naomi Shihab Nye on On Being, Your Life Is a Poem.

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