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UrbArts

Sahara Sista SOLS (at left) served as one of the coaches of St. Louis' team, which includes recent high school graduates Zack Lesmeister (center) and Keana Fox as well as four other teens.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of local teens made St. Louis proud earlier this month when they earned first place at the 2019 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Las Vegas.

Selected through a months-long process under the umbrella of local nonprofit organization UrbArts, the six budding poets won the competition July 20. The festival draws about 500 young poets, their mentors, and leading artists and cultural workers each year for arts education, artistic expression and civic engagement.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two members of the award-winning team: Zack Lesmeister, who is a graduate of Marquette High School, a freshman at Emerson College and a former St. Louis youth poet laureate, and Keana Fox, a graduate of Collinsville High School who is headed to Indiana University in Indianapolis this fall. Also participating in the discussion was one of the team’s coaches, Sahara Sista SOLS.

UrbArts founder MK Stallings and St. Louis Youth Poet Laureate Camryn Howe say the power of the spoken word is electric. [5/30/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Camryn Howe discovered the power of poetry as a high school freshman, when a conversation in physics class led to an impromptu visit to her school’s slam poetry club. When she heard her classmates’ work, crackling with energy and performed aloud, she was hooked. Spoken-word poetry, she found, gave her a way to communicate things that felt too raw to express any other way — and she found the gumption to share her work onstage in front of strangers.

Howe, 18, is now St. Louis’s Youth Poet Laureate. She’ll be a part of Rustbelt Poetry Slam, an annual event now in its 20th year that will be hosted in St. Louis for the first time, at .ZACK on June 21 and 22. The organizer is UrbArts, the Old North-based nonprofit focused on youth outreach through the power of the word.