Young poets wage war with words

Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea will be holding its monthly Tucson Youth Poetry Slam on Saturday. The competition allows poets age 9 to 19 to share their slam poetry and express themselves while letting their voices be heard

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Shane Bekian | The Daily Wildcat

A cup of coffee at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea on Thursday. Bentley's will be hosting the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam on Saturday.

A group of young poets will be gathering Saturday as part of a monthly celebration to honor the spoken word. Every third Saturday of the month from 7-10 p.m., Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea hosts the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam, a program of Spoken Futures, Inc. Always free to the public, the slams are open to performers ages 9 to 19 and represent a variety of Southern Arizona’s young voices.

According to Eli Schneider, a proprietor of Bentley’s, TYPS has been hosted for at least five years at the coffee house.

“We normally close at 6 p.m., but once a month we stay open till 10 p.m. to support the kids,” Schneider said. “This is their night and we want it to be special for them. We let them do whatever they want.”

The competitions serve as an open forum of expression, free of censorship. However, according to the TYPS webpage, there are several rules for performing. All poems must be original, every poem has a three-minute limit and no music and props or costumes are allowed on stage.

Five judges are randomly selected from the crowd to score each of the poets on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0, taking into consideration delivery and content. The competition holds three rounds. The first round is open to all poets, and the second round is open to the subsequent six-highest scoring performers. In the third and final round, the top three poets of the evening vie for first place. There is one first-place winner, but three gift cards are awarded to the top-three performers as an incentive.

“There are newcomers every time, and everyone is very supportive,” Schneider said. “If someone gives a low score, the kids will boo that person. So everyone is really supportive of each other here, which provides a great community for high school students.”

Spoken Futures, Inc. — the creator of the TYPS — is a youth-centered arts and community engagement organization, run by co-directors Sarah Gonzales and Logan Phillips. With over 60 poets from 17 different schools across Southern Arizona in the 2012-2013 season alone, TYPS is the largest youth poetry organization in the region. TYPS kicked off its January 2015 competition with 26 different performing artists in its first and only round of the evening.

“We’re packed for these events,” Schneider said. “We get kids coming from all over, some visiting from as far away as Phoenix. It is an event that brings everyone together, which is something you don’t really get as a high school student. I think it is a really good outlet for these kids to come and express themselves.”

The second TYPS competition of the year is set to commence this Saturday at Bentley’s on East Speedway Boulevard . Attending TYPS slams proves a unique opportunity to support both Tucson’s burgeoning poetry scene and a local business.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the kids get deep in their poetry,” Schneider said. “They say some real and original stuff up there on that stage. I’m really glad we can support the high schoolers through something like this.”

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Follow Elise McClain on Twitter.


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