Press Release - Detail
For immediate release Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016
CONTACT: Roy L. Williams, Director of Public Relations    
Birmingham Public Library                                               
Phone: (205) 226-3746 cell (205) 568-0067                                                        
WORD UP! 2016 kicks off Saturday, Jan. 30 at Central Library with spoken word poetry workshop
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama—The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will begin hosting free workshops for young poets interested in spoken word poetry this Saturday, Jan. 30.
This free workshop is open to all teens middle-school age and up. Those planning to compete in the 2016 WORD UP! contest are especially encouraged to attend. WORD UP!, a poetry slam for students enrolled in high schools—or home schooled—in Jefferson County,  will be held on Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. at the Central Library, 2100 Park Place downtown. 
Teen poets can up their game by attending free workshops leading up to the slam. The Jan. 30 session will be led by Tina Mozelle Braziel, and the Feb. 27 session will be led by John Paul Taylor. Both sessions will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the Story Castle on the second floor of the Central Library. Registration is recommended. For more information, call (205) 226-3670 or email
The slam is sponsored by BPL and Real Life Poets, a non-profit creative writing organization based in Birmingham. 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 theme for WORD UP! 2016 is “Speak Out!.”
Visit the WORD UP! webpage for details at
Each participating high school holds a preliminary contest, and the winners from each school compete in the WORD UP! competition. The deadline for schools to sign on to participate is Feb. 19.  For more information, call (205) 226-3670 or email Each school should designate a staff person, usually a teacher or school librarian, to be the WORD UP! liaison.
The contestants are judged on content and performance by a panel of three judges and compete for cash prizes. The first place winner receives $300, second place $200, and third place $150.
“These young poets put an incredible amount of work into this slam and learn invaluable lessons about public speaking – how to engage an audience, use body language effectively, and stay composed under pressure,” said Haruyo Miyagawa, WORD UP! Coordinator and head of the Arts, Literature, and Sports Department at the Birmingham Public Library. “These skills will really benefit them in future academic and career pursuits.”
For those students determined to go even further, BPL and Real Life Poets will help sponsor a spoken-word team to compete in next year’s Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Competition, a worldwide standard in spoken word poetry competitions for teens since 1998. Brave New Voices 2013 was held in Chicago, and for the first time in the history of the festival, a small but dedicated group of Birmingham-area teens who called themselves Team #KnowDisclaimer competed and did well enough to go on to the semi-finals, a feat almost unheard of by first time teams. 
Students from Birmingham City Schools, Jefferson County Schools, Mountain Brook High, Hewitt-Trussville, Tarrant, and independent schools such as Alabama School of Fine Arts and Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School are among school systems throughout Jefferson County that have been represented in past WORD UP! slams.
For additional information about the programs and services of the Birmingham Public Library, visit our website at and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BPL. The mission of Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for life-long learning, cultural enrichment, and enjoyment. This system—with 19 locations and serving the community for 129 years—is one of the largest library systems in the southeast.
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