The art of spoken word is an ancient tradition that continues today through Hamilton Youth Poets. Created in 2012, “HYP” provides a platform for new young voices to muse on their city through poetry, journalism and hip-hop.
“HYP gives Hamilton’s youth have an opportunity to develop their creative skills and have their voices heard,” says artistic director Nea Reid. “It’s a ‘brave’ and positive space to express ideas, stories, experiences or simply a new concept.”
HYP supports youth who want to engage in the literary arts, develop their voice, and bring it all together at poetry slams – competitions at which poets read or recite original work, and which feature a broad range of voices, styles, cultural traditions, and approaches to writing and performance. “Teams come together and talk about their lives, where they’re from, their social situations and the world around them.” says Nea. “They connect with people that they never would have met. And that creates bridges, community and social activism.”
Nea lauds the support HYP has received from the community, especially from Hamilton Community Foundation. “Their support has allowed us to pursue high-calibre year-round programming, to grow and to embrace more young Hamilton poets.” It has also helped HYP’s small but passionate team of volunteers conduct school workshops across Hamilton. They reach out to students to share what happens when you become part of a collective of writers, including developing your literary skills, public speaking abilities, and the leadership qualities needed to take you further in life.
Kenneth Salazar-Cordova says coming out to slams was his best decision ever. “I made it through my first performance nervously,” says Ken, who made it to the HYP team and competed nationally. “I’ve developed certain skills that probably would have taken me a lot longer without HYP. And it has built my self-esteem and self-confidence.”
“It’s such an amazing cultural scene in Hamilton,” says HYP member Lex Leosis, “It’s so family- and community-oriented, and so proud of its collective roots. It’s very inclusive. At HYP, we mentor each other, learn from each other, and age just doesn’t matter. Whether poets, songwriters or MCs, mastering their craft is what we’re all trying to do, and HYP provides us with the opportunity to do it.”