Two Poet Laureates Reflect On The Power Of Words In The Colorado Cities They Represent

May 25, 2017
Photo: Poet LaureatesNathaniel Minor/CPR News
Ayla Sullivan is the youth poet laureate of Denver; Assetou Xango is the poet laureate of Aurora.

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:

You Grandma, Grandpas, Get You Some Food I Just Fixed You Your Favourite Plate Homestead
You Belly Fat of Stars and Pavement and Violets
You Long, Weary, Tired Block of Hiding All this Colonial Pain 
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 goodbyes
Is your mother, all complicated and blood worn and all, but Denver, you are the city that gives to its people
The home everyone wishes they could have a piece of, so they keep digging deeper
I 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 
Excerpt printed with permission by Ayla Sullivan.

Printed with permission by Assetou Xango.