Verselandia! and the Poetry throughout Portland
Uplifting the voices of young writers

Photo by Courtney Jeffs

Move to TrashNational Poetry Month has come and gone, but Portland keeps the spirit of poetry alive as we continue into spring. Literary Arts once again brings us Verselandia! the youth poetry slam championship to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Youth poets from high schools all over Portland take their words to the grand stage. According to the Literary Arts’ Website, this year would mark the 12th annual return of this spectacular event and the work the Portland literary community puts into making it possible. Encouraging writers and poetry enthusiasts in this way is significant to honoring the work done to cultivate Portland’s relationship with writing communities.

These student poets bring their craft and perspectives to Portland’s Literary scene beginning at their high schools. As advocates like public school English teachers and librarians make this event possible by hosting poetry slams for their schools, they provide a significant recourse for students to engage in literary development and discover their voices. “If you have something to say, or feel like your voice is not heard, or if you have things to teach people and wisdom to get out, slam poetry is great,” states Verselandia! finalist.

From these poetry slams, finalists will go on to champion their school in Verselandia!, attracting over a thousand audience members to hear these students and their poetic brilliance. Students who compete in Verselandia! gain opportunities to win awards, engage in the broader literary scene, and meet professional writers in the poetry community.

A few professional poets known to work with Literary Arts to support this event include Jolly Wrapper, Jill Gaskill, Nae Nichelle, Anis Mojgani, Alex Dang, and Emilly Prado. All of these poets have encouraged student voices, cultivated spaces for poetic expression, and brought the Portland poetry community even more reason to celebrate poetry throughout the year.

Working with school librarians and professional authors, such as the ones named above, Literary Arts is no stranger to providing incredible literary opportunities with its youth programs in high schools across Portland. “The Youth Programs of Literary Arts inspire our city’s youth to find their stories and play an active role in the broader community. We provide opportunities for high school students to use their voice through creative writing, Q&As with authors, student readings, and spoken word performance,” states Literary Arts on their offered youth programs.

In addition to youth programs, Literary Arts provides literary workshops, classes with professional authors, readings, events, publication opportunities, fellowships and so much more to the Portland literary scene. This engagement with the Portland writing community emphasizes the spirit of National Poetry Month all year round. 

Especially by bringing these resources to our youth, the Portland literary community continues to nurture young poets and authors who are finding a voice through writing. The beloved tradition of poetry slams in Portland deserves recognition for this reason. Without events like Verselandia! specific to uplifting young writers, we’d lose a beautiful piece of Portland’s literary culture. 

As our year continues, we’d be wise to seek out poetry within the city of Portland that harbors it. Verselandia! is an extraordinary result of how the Portland literary community encourages future writers to discover themselves as writers and pursue their passions through poetry. 

Poetry is a significant part of Portland culture with organizations like Literary Arts and other local venues hosting poetry events long after April is over. You can often find open-mic readings and other literary-related events at the Rose City Book Pub in North-East Portland. Powell’s Books is also always arranging author talks and all kinds of bookish events Downtown. Literary Arts even presents a variety of poetry-related events such as the monthly open mic readings, Slamlandia, their One-Page Wednesday readings for work-in-progress writing, and we can’t forget the annual Portland Book Festival coming in November.

While we have to wait another year before National Poetry Month returns, enjoy poetry found all over the city as we remember the literary expression and brave voices that Verselandia! brings to us every year. Portland’s poetic inspirations thrive long throughout the year, so find those book pub readings and embrace the words crafted by writers in our city. You’ll never forget the joy of literary greatness found in your local coffee shop.

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