In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature some of the incredible slam poets who performed as part of Verselandia!—the annual, city-wide youth poetry slam championship event, presented by Literary Arts—in 2021.
Each year, Portland-area youth spend the year writing and competing with their peers, and each April about twenty student finalists compete for the title of Portland Slam Champ. Because of the pandemic and school closures last year, we had to re-invent the live event to be a virtual competition in which poets submitted videos of their performances for the judges to rank.
What is important about this episode is that these young poets are thrilling to hear. They will give you chills, and perhaps bring tears to your eyes. And at this moment when it feels our society is cleaved with deep divisions, it is so important to take the time to really listen to young voices who are, after all, the future. These young writers come from all walks of life in the Portland area, and have incredible stories to tell.
In addition to these stunning performances, we’ll hear an original work from our event’s emcee and Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Anis Mojgani.
Content note: Some of these poems contain explicit language and mature content, which may not be suitable for all audiences.
Anis Mojgani is Oregon’s current Poet Laureate and the author of five books of poetry. His work has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in journals Bat City Review, Rattle, Buzzfeed Reader, Thrush, and Forklift Ohio, amongst others. A two time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, Anis has done commissioned work for the Getty Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the Portland Timbers, and has been awarded artist residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, AIR Serenbe, and the Bloedel Nature Reserve. Originally from New Orleans, Anis currently lives in Portland, OR, where he serves on the Board of Directors for Literary Arts. His latest collection is In the Pockets of Small Gods.