Press Release - Detail
Contact:  Chanda Temple, Director of Public Relations
Birmingham Public Library                   
Phone: (205) 444-9279 (cell)

Top Teen Poets to Compete in Poetry Slam at the Birmingham Public Library on April 6
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ­– (March 17, 2014) – Students from 13 high schools in Jefferson County will compete in a poetry slam on Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m. in the Birmingham Public Library’s Arrington Auditorium, 2100 Park Place. The event is free.

Known as WORD UP! 2014, the event allows teenagers to showcase their spoken word skills. This is the seventh year for the competition. Students in grades 9 through 12 write and perform an original work of poetry inspired by a theme selected by the WORD UP! planning committee.  The WORD UP! 2014 theme is “community.” Earlier this year, participating high schools held preliminary contests at their schools. The schools' winners will face off on April 6.

On April 6, a panel of three judges will judge contestants on content and performance. The first place winner will receive $300, second place $200 and third place $150. The slam is sponsored by the Birmingham Public Library and Real Life Poets, a nonprofit creative writing organization based in Birmingham.

John Paul Taylor, co-founder and director of RLP, says WORD UP! gives students an opportunity to express themselves on a local level, which in turn, exposes them and their talents on a national level. “I’m so proud of them,’’ says Taylor. “I just returned from a San Francisco poetry conference. They were impressed with RLP and what we are doing in the community.  We continue to put Birmingham on a national map.’’

In 2013, several past WORD UP! winners were part of a team of Birmingham-area students who went to Chicago to compete in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Competition, the worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. It was the first time Birmingham had been represented. The team advanced to the semifinals, a feat almost unheard of for first-time teams.

The Birmingham team impressed the BNV sponsors so much that Birmingham was invited to compete in the BNV 2014 in Philadelphia, July 16 -20. The library and RLP will help sponsor a spoken word team to compete in this year’s BNV competition.

Eboni Wallace, a senior at Tarrant High School, says the poetry slam has been a life-changing experience for her. She’s won first place in WORD UP! for the past two years. She was also a member of Team #KnowDisclaimer. Tarrant High School teacher Beth Sanders says that WORD UP! has opened doors to opportunities for genuine expression for her as an educator and for her students.  

Tarrant will be one of 13 high schools to compete on April 6. The other schools include: Birmingham’s Ramsay, Wenonah and Woodlawn; Jefferson County’s Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, McAdory, Minor and Shades Valley; Alabama School of Fine Arts; Hewitt-Trussville; Holy Family Cristo Rey; and Leeds.

Word UP! 2014 is made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, call 226-3670 or visit

NOTE: RLP hosts teen poetry workshops every Saturday at the downtown Birmingham library’s Story Castle from 2 to 4 p.m. A teen poetry open mic is held every third Saturday at the Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) in Woodlawn, 5500 First Ave. North. For the teen open mic, doors open at 6 p.m. and performances are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. An adult poetry workshop is held every first Tuesday in the Story Castle from 6 to 8 p.m. All events are free.
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