Teenagers who have aspirations of performing the spoken word are encouraged to sign up for "Louder Than a Bomb," the largest youth poetry festival in the world, which happens to be led by a Chicago-based organization.
Both experienced slammers and those new to the craft are welcome to take part in the five-week virtual event, which will run from March 13 to April 24.
“I have a voice and I’m able to share,” said Daneila Martinez, a poet and Von Stuben High School student, who will be participating for a fourth year. “It was something I didn’t have the desire to do before the moment I started performing what I wrote.”
Nilah Foster, who was named the 2020 Youth Poet Laureate of Chicago, said, "it may be a little scary, but you really get comfortable really quickly especially with the community."
This year, there's especially high interest after Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, captured the nation's attention by reading her poem "The Hill We Climb."
“I think the exciting thing about Amanda Gorman…it showed a lineage of women artists and writers stepping into the limelight in order to present a different kind of narrative for the country, and a different narrative to follow," said Kevin Coval, co-founder and artistic director of Young Chicago Authors, the organization behind the festival.
E’mon Lauren, who was Chicago’s first Youth Poet Laureate, and now is a part of Young Chicago Authors’ teaching corps, agrees as it relates to Gorman's impact.
“It will really inspire people to be more radical listeners, and because we are in a moment of empathy, it’s well needed," she stated. "It encourages you to hear other stories that are out there.”
Coval said over the past 20 or so years, young people who have emerged as dynamic orators and storytellers have gone on to the front lines of resistance movements.
“If you change and transform the culture, ultimately you can transform the politics," he explained. "If you transform the politics you can transform the policies."
Registration opened on Feb. 5 and closes on Feb. 26.