At the at the 20th Annual Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco earlier this month, there were three-minute poetry performances by 600 young poets from around the world that were all at once heart-breaking, angry, angst-ful, joyful, and hopeful. There was loud music, dancing, high fives and other expressions of love and support across the room before the bouts began. There were chants of “You fly,” “Art not ego,” “Don’t be nice, be nasty,” and “Go poet,” along with finger snaps, “mmmmm’s” of approval and lots more loud music before, during and after the bouts.
Move around the room, change the pace, make eye contact, don’t make eye contact. Feel the emotion — anger, sadness, joy. Where is it coming from? What part of you? Allow it to move you.
Movement exercises at a recent poetry retreat showed the poets’ dedication and their willingness to be uncomfortable — in a good way — and put themselves into every word.
Now they are ready to travel to San Francisco
Through a two-year Youth Speaks Future Corp Fellowship at First Peoples Fund, Laree Pourier (Oglala Lakota) leads the Dances with Words program and is helping broaden young people’s experiences and their understanding of themselves — identity, oppression, and resistance. When these young Natives go to the Youth Speaks sponsored poetry slam, Brave New Voices (BNV), they hear young people from all over the world talking about the same issues.
A Dances with Words™ poet ended the “I Too Am American” session with his poem “You Call Me Indian.” At the Brave New Voices (BNV) competition in Washington, D.C., fingers snapped in approval during his performance, where Marcus Ruff (17, Oglala Lakota) alone represented North American Indigenous people.