Hear, Here! Poetry October Poetry Slam poets compete for audience scores, and the top two walk away with a cash prize.
Hear, Here! Poetry October Poetry Slam poets compete for audience scores, and the top two walk away with a cash prize. (Photo by Kaleena Kovach)

Hear, Here! Poetry is a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization with a mission “to create inclusive and empowered community through poetry. Hear, Here! aims to amplify the voices of marginalized people and create safe spaces that are open to all and free of censorship.”

According to its website, Hear, Here! “cherishes stories as critical to the human spirit and believes they define who we are. Sharing our stories initiates both internal growth and positive change. Hear, Here! holds safe spaces for the exploration of self through writing, and we cultivate a culture of openness, encouragement, cooperation and growth.”

The organization’s vision is to create “a thriving Colorado Springs community for people of every race, ethnicity, age, ability status, gender identity and sexual orientation, operating on values of engagement, empowerment, community, celebration, creativity, solidarity and love,” said Kaleena Kovach, a Colorado Springs native and board member since May.

Kovach said Hear, Here! Poetry was established 10 years ago by a group that wanted to see the slam poetry scene expand in the Springs.

Kovach’s personal interest in poetry was sparked by her passion for writing during her high school years.

“I found out about poetry slams through the UCCS poetry club,” she said. “Poetry has been a huge part of my life and it’s been a way to express myself while creating community.”

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The organization was the logical next step for Kovach, and soon after she began volunteering, she became a board member.

“I have this wonderful community of folks I’ve gotten to know,” she said. “The organization is uniquely positioned in a way that sharing a part of your heart onstage, you’re automatically going to be vulnerable, and I love the opportunity to get to help with that.”

Kovach said the goal of Hear, Here! is to create community through poetry with a few different events.

“We strive to lift up marginalized voices, and are intentional with events we do,” she said. “As long as it’s not harassment or hate speech, we encourage dialogue and discussion.

“We are welcoming and opening to everyone,” Kovach said.

Events include open mic nights guided by certain themes, and people of all ages can participate.

Kovach explained the open mic nights begin with a mini workshop where participants can share their poems with others and receive feedback, and added the first Saturday of every month is open mic night at the Penrose Library.

“The theme last month was letting go,” she said. “We also partnered with Springs Equality, helping collect donations. We allowed people to let go physically and emotionally.”

Hear, Here! Poetry also hosts competitive poetry slams.

“Participants have to be selected to be in the slam,” Kovach said. “Competitors read pieces and the audience gives them a score. After each round, the lowest two or three people are cut off, and the rest of the poets continue on for a top prize.”

Additionally, Kovach said the organization created a youth program, assembling a team of six poets who compete on a national level.

“We hold workshops leading up to those competitions, and poets work with the community for a few months then travel to the national slam each year,” she said. “They traveled to Texas this summer and did a great job.”

Kovach hopes that with the help of the Give! Campaign (which awarded Hear, Here! Poetry second place in the Young Donor category last year) the organization will be able to send more poets to regional and national competitions, as well as hold more formal workshops hosted by board members and established poets.

“It will give people the opportunity to learn more about poetry and hone their craft while fostering growth in a more intentional way,” she said. “Poets can share a piece and get feedback from others, making their art as good as it can be.

“We don’t want monetary constraints to be the reason youth can’t participate in poetry,” Kovach said.

For more information, visit facebook.com/hearherepoetry.