Young Writers Showcase Skills at Rooted & Radical Poetry Festival

(Courtesy of Young Chicago Authors)(Courtesy of Young Chicago Authors)

Through a combination of literacy and self-expression, Young Chicago Authors is encouraging Chicago’s youth to engage in storytelling to express themselves with poetry and performance.

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“What poems do is, it unlocked this new universe for people to be able to create the world they want to see, the world they want to live in — just give you a glimpse into that,” said Demetrius Amparan, the nonprofit’s executive director.

Through March 22, Young Chicago Authors is putting on its annual Rooted & Radical Youth Poetry Festival. Currently in its third rendition, the festival was once known as Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB).

Since Feb. 10, the nonprofit has hosted workshops and performance opportunities for Chicago middle and high schoolers to perform their stories for the public in competitions dubbed “bouts.”

“If you are someone who loves to write or create, this is the perfect space to test new work,” Amparan said.

Teaching artist Chimo “Naira” Ikoro was previously a festival participant. She’s been a part of the organization since 2014 and is an LTAB alum.

“The most beautiful thing about poetry is that you can take a small thing and make it big,” Ikoro said.

She is one of many teaching artists tasked with aiding the youth in how to explore this year’s theme of “joy.” The festival’s theme is inspired by a quote from Ross Gay: “Joy is the mostly invisible, the underground union between us, you and me, which is, among other things, the great fact of our life and the lives of everyone.”

“Instead of thinking big,” Ikoro said, “think: How can I talk about as many things as possible in this piece? Think about how many ways can I talk about this one individual thing, and that is how you can make your poem stand out from all of the other poems.”

Outside of the annual poetry festival, Young Chicago Authors additionally offers themed programming, open mic opportunities and writing workshops for multidisciplinary artists interested in hip-hop, rap or journalism in addition to poetry.

As for the current program, Rooted and Radical is gearing up for its semi-final showcases happening March 16 at the Den Theatre and March 22 at the Ramova Theatre. Tickets range from $5-$20.

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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