Aspen Poets’ Society’s Spotlight on Student Poets returns
If You Go...
Who: Aspen Poets’ Society
What: Spotlight on Student Poets
When: 6:30 p.m. on Sunday
Where: Victoria’s Cafe in Aspen
How Much: Free
The Aspen Poets’ Society has been making a greater effort than ever to reach out to downvalley students and turn them into poets, so it’s no surprise that most of the youth participating in the second annual Spotlight on Student Poets are from downvalley.
“I think our efforts to contact as many teachers as possible was more efficient,” said Kim Nuzzo, president and co-founder of the Aspen Poets’ Society.
The Spotlight on Student Poets began last year as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month in April.
“One of the best ways would be to give a voice to younger members of our community who don’t necessarily have a venue for sharing their poetry out loud,” Nuzzo said.
This year, more than 20 students, from kindergarten through high school, will get on the mic at Victoria’s Cafe in Aspen to share one poem they’ve written.
Erica Massender, a 14-year-old freshman at Glenwood Springs High School, said she got interested in poetry in 6th grade when spoken word artist Logan Phillips was brought to her school by the Aspen Poets’ Society. She said he was so inspiring that she couldn’t wait to get some of her own words down on paper.
“I was writing on the bus ride home,” she said. “I was a writer before that, and I had interest in some of the things I wrote but didn’t know what to put them into. A lot of it ended up working as poetry.”
Massender said she usually has stage fright, but never when she’s reading her poetry. Even the first time she did it, she wasn’t afraid.
“I love all kinds of art, and poetry was just another type of art that made me feel confident about myself and made me more open,” she said.
Owen O’Farrell, a 14-year-old freshman at Roaring Fork High School, said his first open mic experience wasn’t quite as smooth.
“The first time I was extremely nervous,” he said. “I hadn’t performed at all really, so I was still a frightened kid.”
Since then, O’Farrell has gotten involved in theater and become more comfortable as a poet, so he said he doesn’t really get nervous anymore. He sees poetry as a way to share ideas, since sometimes he struggles to express himself when just speaking, he said. But his favorite thing about poetry is the community he’s found.
“I like the community of spoken word poets,” he said. “Everyone is very inviting, and they have some amazing ideas to share. Getting their perspective on life is a beautiful thing.”
Nuzzo said one of the goals of the Aspen Poets’ Society is to share poetry with young people in an accessible way that may not be achieved in a school setting.
“I don’t know if there’s a better way to encourage the democratization of poetry than exposing young people to it in a more accessible way,” she said. “Billy Collins, who was our national Poet Laureate in 2001, said high school is the place where poetry goes to die. I think what he’s talking about is often by that time, a kid is already turned off of the idea of reading something that’s not accessible. Poetry can make a person feel dumb. By exposing people to the spoken word, we’re able to tap into some of the other things poetry has to offer: the pleasure of sound, the pleasure of metaphor, the pleasure of imaginative travel.”
Nuzzo said adolescence is the perfect time for someone to discover poetry.
“A lot of people who write, if you ask them, a lot started in their teenage years,” she said. “In that state where a teen feels alone, feels isolated, it’s a way for them to connect. I think poetry is in us. It’s already in us. It just needs to be encouraged, and it’ll come out.”
This year’s theme is “Marble Mash” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial, which was built from marble mined in the nearby Crystal River Valley town of Marble. Among the day’s events is a statue contest.
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