ABOVE: Meta-Four Houston 2023: (L-R) Adriana Winkelmayer, Samiyah Green, Myaan Sonenshein, Isabella Mira-Diaz, Ariana Lee, Kylan Denney (Photo Credit: Alinda Mac)
In an impressive display of poetic dexterity and artistic expression, Houston’s youth poetry team Meta-Four (Meta4) Houston won the prestigious Brave New Voices Slam, solidifying their position as top youth poets in the country on July 22, 2023. Brave New Voices works to increase the visibility of youth voices, giving them an international platform that connects poetry, spoken word, youth development, and civic engagement. For the last 40 years, Writers in the Schools has been at the forefront of literary arts for youth in Houston and has housed the team since its inception. This is the first time for Houston to secure the coveted title. After months of dedication and preparation, the team presented poems on difficult topics covering women’s health, the refugee crisis, the human condition, and race relations.
Raie Crawford, Director of Youth and Community Programming for Writers in the Schools says,
“I couldn’t be more ecstatic about this historic win for our youth slam poetry team. Our students have worked so hard to get to this very moment. This program is a staple for our organization and has a huge spot in the hearts of the writing/ performance community, as well as the city at large. Being able to see our students take stage, amplifying their personal stories through performance poetry is proof of how truly diverse the arts are in the City of Houston, and how creative writing can help students develop global awareness and be a voice of change for the world.”
Earlier this year, the winning poets competed in preliminary slams in Houston. The leading poets then needed to score in the top six at the Annual Space City Grand Slam to earn the right to represent Houston at Brave New Voices in San Francisco. Twenty top teams from around the globe competed in semi-final slam bouts. The top four teams: Houston, New York, Nashville, and Sacramento, competed in four rounds of spoken-word performance in the historic Herbst Theater for the Finals. Houston took the top spot.
Outspoken Bean (Houston’s Poet Laureate Emeritus) and Alinda Mac (Meta4 alumna and WITS Writer) coached the six teen poets from Houston-area schools: Kylan Denney is a 2023 graduate of Humble High School. She will attend Stanford University. This is her second year on the Meta4 team. Isabella Diaz-Mira is a 2023 graduate from St. John’s School in Houston. In the fall, she will attend Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Samiyah Green is the youngest member of the team. She’s a rising sophomore at Kinder HSPVA in Houston. Ariana Lee is Houston’s Youth Poet Laureate. She is also a 2023 graduate from St. John’s School. She will attend Stanford University. This is her second year on the Meta4 team. Myaan Sonenshein is a rising 11th grader at Kinder HSPVA. This is her first year on Meta4. Adriana Winkelmayer attends the Emery Weiner School and is a rising 11th grader. This is Adriana’s third year on the Meta4 team.
About Meta-Four Houston (Meta4)
Meta-Four Houston is a program of Writers in the Schools (WITS). It is Texas’ largest youth poetry slam series and has been in operation since 2007. The Meta4 Houston team is the face of Houston’s youth poetry scene.
About Writers in the Schools (WITS)
Since 1983, Writers in the Schools has engaged children in the joy and power of reading and writing. The nonprofit organization partners with authors, journalists, and spoken word performers to work collaboratively with teachers to nurture the growth of the imagination and awaken students to the adventures of language. WITS strives to revolutionize the way reading and writing are taught through workshops and other activities led by professional poets and authors.