Aspen Words “slam” brings young writers together

Feb 8, 2016

Myrlin Hepworth (left) and Mercedez Holtry perform at the 2015 Youth Poetry Slam.
Credit Jane Bachrach

For four years now, Aspen Words has been sending poets into local schools to teach kids about the art.


That trend of putting poets in schools is continuing this year, with the third annual Youth Poetry Slam.

At Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, poet Mercedez Holtry taught a group of high schoolers how to improve as writers. Holtry says working with the kids is inspiring, among other things.


“It’s amazing," says Holtry. "It’s really rewarding. It’s stressful. It’s liberating. It’s so many things I don’t really know where to start or where to begin.”

Holtry is young, only 22-years-old. She says working with kids is a trial and error process. She isn’t much older than the people she’s teaching. She’s still in college.


One of the kids receiving instruction from Holtry is Tibet Boyer, a 14-year-old at Yampah. He says Holtry has helped him learn to time the delivery of his poems better. Half of the art of poetry is in how it’s delivered. That is what Boyer likes about writing. Setting yourself free through words.


“It’s like setting an animal, or releasing an animal back into the wild, except you’re releasing yourself," says Boyer. "It’s very healing. It’s very nice.”

Twenty-four poets will be competing in the slam at the Third Street Center on Friday. It is an event that is more about providing a platform for the young writers to express themselves, rather than picking a winner. That’s something Renee Prince is striving for.


Prince is the education associate for Aspen Words. She helps with get the art of writing into local schools. She says poetry is important to kids because it is a time when they are just figuring out who they are.


“I  feel like their voices are emerging at this age, in middle school and high school," says Prince. "To just give them the invitation, to open the floor, to give them a stage, it doesn’t take much more than that for them to step into it.”

The winner of the third annual youth poetry slam will be crowned on Friday.