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Youth spoken word poetry groups are on the rise in the United States, offering safe spaces for young people to write and perform. These diverse groups encourage members to share their lived experiences, decry injustices and imagine a better future. At a time when students may find writing in school alienating and formulaic, composing in these poetry groups can be refreshingly relevant and exciting.
ASU's Wendy R. Williams, assistant professor of English in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU Polytechnic campus, will read from her new book "Listen to the Poet: Writing, Performance, and Community in Youth Spoken Word Poetry" at Changing Hands Bookstore's Tempe location, on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m.
"Listen to the Poet" investigates two Arizona spoken word poetry groups — a community group and a high school club — that are both part of the same youth organization. Exploring the writing lives and poetry of several members, Williams takes readers inside a writing workshop and poetry slam and reveals that schools have much to learn about writing, performance, community and authorship from groups like these and from youth writers themselves.
In 2017 she launched ASU's Young Authors' Studio, a free Saturday writing program for students in grades 5–12 led by college students enrolled in ENG 484/584: Mentoring Youth Writers, as well as ASU's first annual Sparky Slam, a spoken word poetry competition for youth poets.
Before joining ASU as an assistant professor in 2015, she taught high school and middle school English for nine years. She earned her doctorate in curriculum and instruction in English education at ASU.