Sticks and stones might break bones, but nothing has more power than words. They give us voice, confidence and character. And, when we stand up and let our words be heard, they can change lives.
That’s what Matthew Foley ’08 is out to do: change lives through the power of spoken-word poetry. Foley is the founder of Holy City Youth Slam, a spoken-word poetry program that hosts writing workshops and poetry slams for Charleston youth ages 12–18.
This Saturday, April 25, 2015, Holy City Youth Slam is celebrating National Poetry Month with a free youth poetry workshop (1:00–2:30 p.m., taught by Foley himself) and a youth poetry slam (3:00–5:00 p.m.) at the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, where he teaches English and creative writing.
Foley wouldn’t organize events like this if he weren’t passionate about poetry. He is. And his goal is to share that passion with his students and other young people who might otherwise not be exposed to writing and performing poetry.
“When poetry lessons and class poetry slams became the most popular events in my classroom, it reminded me how powerful poetry was,” says Foley, who majored in English at the College and created the Holy City Youth Slam in 2014 to promote this power among Charleston youth. “The goal is to get people excited about poetry in an age when a lot of people would say that ‘poetry is dead,’ and to help people remember how electrifying a great poem can be.”
Held throughout the year, Holy City Youth Slam’s free poetry-writing workshops pair young poets with adult writers and educators, who help them improve their writing and performance skills.
Young poets are also encouraged to express themselves at the youth-only poetry slams that Foley organizes. Each competitor is given three minutes to perform an original poem on any topic. The judges, who are randomly selected from the audience, then give the work a score from zero to 10. The top youth poets at the slam are encouraged to form a Charleston-area slam team to compete at the national Brave New Voices youth slam that is held each July.
This Saturday, all young poets under age 18 are invited to perform, and the top poet will win a $300 prize. There are two rounds, so competitors must have two poems prepared. For more information and to register, visit the event’s Facebook page.