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Youth, Uncensored: Visiting Writers Teach Roaring Fork Valley Students The Power Of Poetry

Feb 11, 2020

A student takes the stage at the Third Street Center for the annual Youth Poetry Slam, a part of Aspen Words' annual program that brings teaching poet-artists to area schools.
Credit Caito Foster Photography

Four professional poets hold writing workshops in area schools this week. The goal is to get students to see poetry -- and themselves -- in a new light. 

Poet and activist Mercedez Holtry is a veteran of Aspen Words’ Poets In The Schools program. For two weeks every winter, she travels to high schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, teaching students to use writing as a form of self-expression. On the first day, she tells students, it's time to let your guard down.

Poet Mercedez Holtry, one of four teaching artists for this year's Poets in the Schools program.
Credit Facebook

"This workshop requires you to be brave and to be vulnerable and to show yourself in a way that maybe you normally don’t," she said.

She says she teaches students that poetry can help them find their true voice. 

"When you are uncensored, you’re allowed to be your most authentic self," she said, "and I know these kids have it in them to talk about what it means to be human."


One of her favorite moments this year came when one student read a poem about being trans aloud to his classmates. 

"For him to define himself based on how he identifies and how he feels," she said, "was such a brave moment."

Holtry and the three other teaching poets,Toluwanimi Oluwafunmilayo Obiwole, Meta Sarmiento and Yolanda Wisher, perform their work at Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar Tuesday starting at 5:30 p.m. 

A poetry slam featuring selected high school students performing their poetry takes place on Friday at the Third Street Center.