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Hear Here makes space for women and genderqueer poets 

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In the world of spoken-word poetry — as is the case in many industries, disciplines and artistic pursuits — men’s voices often shout the loudest. Kimberly Southcott, board chair of local poetry group Hear Here, says that the Colorado Springs poetry scene once felt hugely male-dominated. “Most of the slam competitors and the winners ended up being a lot of men,” she says. “It was important to honor a space that was specifically set aside to have women slam.”

“Slams,” spoken-word poetry competitions, take a variety of forms. Hear Here often participates in both team and individual slams, representing Colorado Springs on national stages. One of those stages, the Women of the World Poetry Slam, was created specifically to amplify the voices of women, nonbinary and genderqueer people, to give them their own space.

Hear Here has sent representatives to the past two Women of the World slams, and plans to make it a yearly tradition. To that end, they’ve organized a qualifying event on Jan. 21 for women and genderqueer poets to compete for the opportunity to attend the 2018 national competition, with registration and partial travel paid.

“Our winner would be one of 70 to 80 people slamming there in Dallas [where the competition will be held],” Southcott says, “which is just phenomenal. It’s amazing to see that many women and queer/nonbinary people slamming here in Colorado Springs, and then they get to go compete with women from all over the world.”

Mallory Everhart, occasional Indy columnist and 2016’s Hear Here representative at WOWps, says national slams provide an incredible opportunity to poets. “There are a ton of open mics and side events and workshops and people to meet and artistic networks to make,” she says. “It’s a wonderful space to meet like-minded people who are working through some of the same issues that you are, or are in some of the same conditions that you’re in, but in their own communities.”

But competing poets (and the winning poet) aren’t the only ones who will benefit from Sunday night’s qualifier event. The audience, too, will get a chance to enjoy a variety of voices that don’t always get their own platform, which is one of Hear Here’s recent goals. Everhart says they’ve been reinventing themselves as an organization over the last six or so months, “showcasing voices that don’t get an opportunity to get showcased very often.” With Black Voices Matter for black poets, an open mic specifically for people with disabilities, and other themed open mic nights, they’ve been reaching out to more and more specific communities.

Poets interested in the Women of the World qualifier should prepare four poems, one lasting one minute, one at two minutes, one at three minutes and one at four. Interested attendees should just come prepared to get their “heartstrings tugged,” and to hear unique perspectives from talented locals.

“These are the stories of Colorado Springs we don’t hear,” Everhart says. “... and their art is profound.”

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