Poetry has been transformative for 20-year-old Ayla Sullivan. It was an outlet to deal with custody battles as a kid and, when Sullivan found slam poetry as a teen, it was a conduit for self-discovery and expression. Now, Sullivan is the new youth poet laureate of Denver and hopes to share that power of language with other young people. As does Assetou Xango, who's 26 and the new Aurora poet laureate.
In addition to being a poet, Sullivan also acts and is a theater and secondary English education student at the University of Colorado Boulder. Sullivan says poetry has been transformative. Xango has founded several poetry venues in cities like Denver and San Francisco and works for Creative Strategies for Change, a nonprofit focused on social justice.
Sullivan and Xango spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.
Read poetry about each of their respective cities:
Denver,You Grandma, Grandpas, Get You Some Food I Just Fixed You Your Favourite Plate HomesteadYou Belly Fat of Stars and Pavement and VioletsYou Long, Weary, Tired Block of Hiding All this Colonial PainDenver,You survive storms with smiles, floods with laughter, and hold your real children, the ones who know the state you were birthed from should be said like blowing kisses to your mama when you’ve already said enough goodbyesColoradoIs your mother, all complicated and blood worn and all, but Denver, you are the city that gives to its peopleThe home everyone wishes they could have a piece of, so they keep digging deeperI know your mama well, know all her secret parts, have lived all over her arms but you are my favourite child of hers, my favourite Auntie in this city of the plains
I was 19 when I decided I had outgrown my roots.
Started sniping at them with the hedge trimmers
I moved to San Francisco that year.
For the entire duration of my stay, I wrote a series of poems entitled "there are no butterflies in San Francisco"
That is to say I missed my home
and the viceroy butterflies that chased each other outside my window.
I just wanted to be home
Near curry and Korean food markets
In the heart of both Saudi Arabia and Addis Ababa
This place where all cultures converge
I needed to go home
Printed with permission by Assetou Xango.