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Spoken word artists return to Roaring Fork Valley

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Visiting six Carbondale schools

Sopris Sun Staff Report

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For the third year in a row, Aspen Words (formerly known as the Aspen Writers’ Foundation) has brought acclaimed bilingual spoken word teaching artists to work with students in Roaring Fork Valley middle and high schools.

From Feb.17-27, this year’s trio of poets is fanning out across the Roaring Fork Valley, encouraging and inspiring young people in 16 schools to find their voices and express their feelings through poetry.

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In Carbondale, they will lead assemblies and bilingual workshops for students from Roaring Fork High School, Bridges High School, Carbondale Middle School, Carbondale Community School, Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Ross Montessori School. Valley-wide, they will reach over 3,000 seventh through 12th graders in just nine days, according to a press release.

This is visit number three for Myrlin “Myrlindo” Hepworth from Phoenix. He’s joined again this year by poet Logan “Dirty Verbs” Phillips from Tucson — who taught with Hepworth here for two weeks last February and also as a guest of the RE-1 School District in the spring of 2013 — plus first time visitor, award-winning young female poet Mercedez Holtry from Albuquerque.

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The project will culminate in three free events this year. The first is the second annual Youth Poetry Slam to be held at the Third Street Center in Carbondale on Feb. 27. Young poets from throughout the valley will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. (registration opens at 5:30 pm); poems in both English and Spanish will be welcome. Judges will be selected from the audience and will score each poet on both content and delivery. Other audience members will be encouraged to get involved in the fun by voicing their support for their favorite poets and responding with cheers or boos to the judges’ scoring. The community at large is invited to come out and support the valley’s brave young voices.

The Youth Poetry Slam will be followed immediately at 9 p.m. by an all-ages cumbia dance party led by DJ Logan Phillips. The party will feature Phillips’ extensive collection of Latin music from around the hemisphere. Basic instruction in cumbia will be offered from the stage. Everyone is welcome, whether attending the poetry slam or just coming for the cumbia party. Admission is free but donations to help cover costs will be welcome.

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The third and final free event will be Feb. 28, at The Wheeler Opera House in Aspen: “Aloud: A High Altitude Poetry Jam” featuring the spoken word artistry of Hepworth, Phillips and Holtry. Winners from Friday’s Youth Poetry Slam will join the poets on stage. The performance starts at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to Carbondale schools, the following are participating in the program this year: Glenwood Springs High School, Glenwood Springs Middle School, Yampah Mountain High School, St. Stephen’s Catholic School,  Basalt High School, Basalt Middle School, Aspen High School, Aspen Middle School, Aspen Country Day School and Aspen Community School.

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“From Logan’s words about free writing (literally, ‘setting you free’) to Myrlin’s beautiful contention that ‘every action is either an expression or a call for love,’ these poets brought more to our school in terms of cultivating spiritual health and wellbeing than most visiting psychologists or life coaches ever have in the past,” said Aspen Country Day School English teacher Annie Garrett after the 2014 visit to her school.

What students are saying

Here are a few quotes from last year’s spoken word program in Roaring Fork Valley schools:

“In a few days, Myrlin and Logan can make the difference for someone between feeling low or being happy. They let me express myself and feel confident speaking. You could tell that they valued our poems and words.”

– Gloria, RFHS student

“Poems aren’t just words on a page, waiting to be read. They’re emotions needing to be expressed, needing to be shared loudly, with vigorous detail.”

– Tibet, CMS student

“Myrlin believed in me.  He didn’t judge me and tell me my dream was impossible.  He made me feel like I had someone who actually cared about me.  I didn’t feel alone.”

– Anali, RFHS student

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