“The Voice That It Gives Me” [YOUTH POETRY]

Citywide poets prep for slam competition with verse from their own young lives.

It’s a big week for Detroit’s young poets.

The Detroit Youth Poetry Grand Slam takes place at Thursday at Trinosophes, 1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit. (Doors at 5 p.m. The suggested donation is $5.) The winners there go on to the statewide competition.

In advance of the city contest, WDET hosted some of the poets from InsideOut Literary Arts Project in studio. Here are their stories AND their poems: 

Ben Alfaro/InsideOut Literary Arts

YaKuZa Moon, 17, homeschooled in Detroit

“Now I treat bones like treaties and break them.”

Yakuza is drawn to poetry because it allows such freedom of expression.

 “It’s a really amorphous art form. You can really convey anything through it, and it’s always been there for me” he says.

What he looks for in a great poem is relatability, honesty and vivid imagery. “I want to be taken to a place that I’ve never seen before or a place I’m unfamiliar with or even a place I do relate to or I’ve never seen it from your perspective,” he says.

His poem is called “Featherhead,” and it was inspired by a conversation with one of his friends who is Navajo and lives in the southwest United States. They talked about gentrification and colonization and how they are related to their daily lives in their respective hometowns.

Click here to listen to Yakuza.

Imani Beckley, 16, Fitzgerald High School

“You will find your father in every man that says hello.”

Imani spends that time she does with poetry because of the voice that it gives her.

“Things that you wouldn’t normally say, things that aren’t brought up in normally conversation, you can express that on a page and you can choose what you share,” she says.

Her poem is titled “The Rundown for that Fatherless Kid”

Click here to listen to Imani’s poem.

Ben Alfaro/InsideOut Literary Arts

 A’janae Neal, 15, Arts Academy in the Woods

“I wish he could feel my tears, how they danced across every bloody knuckle cracked across every flaw on my mother’s face.”

A’janae did not have anyone to talk to during some hard times in her life so she started writing. “Being with Inside/Out has really given me that sense of security, I guess, and being able to share my story without being angry or being angry with the world,” she says.

Her poem is called “peace” and is about her life when she lived on Rosa Parks Boulevard.

Click here to listen to A’janae discuss her life and her poem.

Eldric Laron, 15, Arts Academy in the Woods

“How long have I been a poet? Ever since I was born.”

Eldric is part of InsideOut because he loves the vibe and the environment.

“It made me feel free. It made me feel more of myself,” he says. “I guess it just helps me become more consistent with my writing.”

He calls his poem “Momma Does Not Want Me to Grow Here.”

Click here to listen to Eldric.

“I was thinking about writer’s block and that term – block – is associated with prison, like a prison block, so I automatically decided to write about a prison and being chained to these words. … Writers’ block is like one page. I might as well get through my sentence.”

Damon Hogan is a freshman at Wayne State University, a graduate of Ben Carson High School in Detroit.

Ben Alfaro/InsideOut Literary Arts

The first time Damon wrote a poem and performed it, his classmates loved it. So his teacher encouraged him to enter a slam. The judges didn’t share his peers’ enthusiasm. “I lost,” he says.

But a mentor recommended the InsideOut program.

“After that, I developed a love for it. Now I’m just addicted to poetry,” he says. 

Click here to listen to Damon’s poem. 



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