If you missed the memorable poetry slams at Steve’s Guitars and Roaring Fork High School last year, take heart. The spoken-word artists who led those events are returning to the Roaring Fork Valley and will be sharing their verbal magic in the schools, on stage, and even a few times on the KDNK airwaves from Feb. 3-14.
Aspen Writers’ Foundation is bringing teaching artists Myrlin Hepworth and Logan Phillips back for a two-week immersion in local middle and high schools in every town from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. The two also will lead the Slammin’ Students Youth Poetry Slam on Feb. 10 at PAC3 in the Third Street Center. All middle and high school students from throughout the valley are welcome to participate, regardless of whether or not they have shared workshops with Myrlin or Logan at school.
The Slammin’ Students Youth Poetry Slam starts at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 10; students wishing to perform should arrive at the Third Street Center by 6 p.m. to register. The event is free and open to the public. In true slam fashion, judges of all ages will be selected from the audience.
Says Hepworth, “The competition is all in fun. The real point of this event is to inspire young people to give voice to their observations and feelings and then to be heard. I hope lots of folks from the community will come out … to show their support, just like they would for basketball, soccer, or football games.”
Poetry meets hip-hop
Myrlin Hepworth is a poet, emcee and teaching artist from Phoenix who performs throughout the country. He is the co-founder of the Arizona State University (ASU) Humanities initiative, Phonetic Spit, providing poetry and spoken word workshops to over 30 Phoenix-area high schools and community centers every year, plus many more around the country. In 2010, he became the first undergraduate teaching artist for the Young Writers Program at ASU, where he received his degree in English in 2011.
Myrlin has competed on three National Poetry Slam teams and co-founded and coached the Phoenix youth team to consecutive appearances at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam. He describes his work with youth this way: “I teach them about poetry and performing, but what I really do is help create a safe space for them to express themselves and to explore who they are, to broaden their view of the world.”
In the spring of 2013, the Arizona Commission on the Arts awarded Myrlin the Arizona Humanities Rising Star Award. He is the author of a collection of poems, “From the Rooftops” and in July of 2013 released his first hip-hop mixtape, “The Funky Autopsy.”
He spent a week at Roaring Fork High School last February, culminating in an all-school assembly described as “the best assembly I’ve ever attended” by a 20-year veteran teacher. In response to his concurrent visit to Colorado Rocky Mountain School, a CRMS student wrote, “Through his poetry he showed what is really going on in the world and he brought these things to our attention… It was the greatest poetry I have ever heard.”
Poetry as performance
Logan “Dirtyverbs” Phillips is a bilingual performance poet, teacher and trans disciplinary artist from Tucson who spent the first 18 years of his life living 14 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona. He graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Spanish and worked as a professor of Latin American literature, culture and translation at Universidad Internacional in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico before devoting himself to his current artistic endeavors. He is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the most recent entitled “Arroyo Ink.”
Logan competed in four National Poetry Slams in the United States from 2002 to 2005 and co-hosted the first Mexican poetry slam in 2007. That same year, he founded the multimedia performance collective Verbo•bala (“bullet verb”) with two video artists. The international group pioneers what they call “spoken video,” a combination of live video projections and bilingual spoken word, creating site-specific performance art and installation. Described as “going for a poetry written without letters” by Mexico’s national newspaper La Reforma, Verbo•bala’s innovative practice has taken their work from Cuernavacan speak-easies to international venues including the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Phoenix Art Museum, New York University, and the Poesía.en.Voz.Alta Festival in Mexico City.
A gifted and inspiring teacher, Logan coordinates the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam. He wowed students in the Roaring Fork Valley when he visited middle and high schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt last spring. In the words of Paul Freeman, principal at Glenwood Springs High School,“Logan Phillips came to our school and worked with our students using the medium of performance poetry, or to use the more popular term, slam poetry. I did not understand the power of the genre to generate so much interest in poetry. Over the space of a few short days, Logan entertained, informed and inspired, an impressive trifecta.”
Carbondale teachers responded quickly and enthusiastically when offered the chance to host the visiting poets in their classes. Myrlin will be at Roaring Fork High School Feb.3-6 and Feb. 11. The rest of the days, he will divide his time between Basalt high and middle schools, Aspen Middle School, Aspen Country Day, and Glenwood Springs High School. Logan will be at Carbondale Middle School Feb. 4-7, and Bridges High School and Carbondale Community School also on Feb. 4. The rest of his time will be split between Basalt High School, Glenwood Springs middle and high schools, and Aspen High School, with a possible visit to Yampah Mountain High School in the works as well.
When Wade Newsom, local spoken word artist and owner of The Blend, traveled to New York recently to take a workshop with nationally renowned performance poet Lemon Andersen, he didn’t know he’d be inviting Lemon to visit Carbondale this winter. Thanks to Wade’s efforts and the support of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, Lemon will fly in from New York to share the stage with Logan, Myrlin and the winners of the Youth Poetry Slam for a special evening event in Aspen on Feb. 13. The event, dubbed “Aloud! The High Altitude Poetry Jam,” will take place at the Wheeler Opera House. Locals may remember Lemon as the subject of a documentary by the same name that screened at the Crystal Theater during 2012’s Aspen FilmFest. Lemon’s stage memoir, “County of Kings,” a Spike Lee production, was featured in the film and debuted at the Public Theater in New York in 2009. In a New York Times interview, Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater stated, “It sounds hackneyed, but one reason we love Lemon so much is that he is really someone saved by his artistic talent. The fact that a kid who came from such incredibly damaging circumstances figured out how to respond to all that with such huge spirit makes old guys like Spike Lee and me fall in love.” Lemon was also the recipient of the 2003 Tony Award for “Def Poetry Jam,” produced by Russell Simmons on Broadway and subsequently broadcast for six seasons on HBO.
The High Altitude Poetry Jam at The Wheeler starts at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 with doors open at 6 p.m. A ticket is not required for this free event.
More information about all these events is available from Aspen Writers’ Foundation, www.aspenwriters.org or 925-3122.
Spoken-word artist Myrlin Hepworth gave workshops and also performed at Roaring Fork High School last year. He is returning to Roaring Fork Valley schools and will be part of the Youth Poetry Slam at PAC3 on Feb. 10. Among other accomplishments, Hepworth has competed on three National Poetry Slam teams and co-founded and coached the Phoenix youth team to consecutive appearances at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam. Photo by Tomas Karmelo
Logan Phillips is a bilingual performance poet and teacher from Tucson.