Showcasing the power of poetry

Poets and hip hop artists hope to change the world at U of M event.

Kyle Tran Myhre, also known as Guante, peforms at the University of Minnesota’s Page. Stage.

Catherine Stolz

Kyle Tran Myhre, also known as Guante, peforms at the University of Minnesota’s Page. Stage.

Catherine Stolz, Reporter

The University of Minnesota’s Whole Music Café reached capacity Friday night as youth poets and hip hop artists took the stage alongside YouTube famous artist Kyle Tran Myhre, also known as Guante, to share their work about social injustice and social change.

The Page.Stage.Engage. event was organized by a local organization, TruArtSpeaks, which aims to educate poets from the ages of 13 to 19 and give them experience in leadership positions. Eight youth artists presented their pieces in front of a crowd of students, family members and friends.

“This is a really a great opportunity,” said poet Duncan Slagle before performing his piece focusing on ending rape culture.

  Members of the TruArtSpeaks executive board also performed their own pieces and spoke about their work with the organization.

“We want to look at how art responds to social change, not just make art about social change,” said Tran Myhre, who performed a number of songs and poems. He also spoke about his passion for activism and the importance of getting involved in social movements. “One of the best decisions you can make is to show up,” he said.

Tran Myhre has worked closely with TruArtSpeaks for three years, even coaching the youth team for a while and serving as their communications director.

“There are incredible artists here,” he said. “They are all so inspirational.”

TruArtSpeaks was created in 2006 by Executive Director Tish Jones. Jones was inspired to found the project after learning about the murder rates in Minneapolis and how often violence affects local teenagers.

“I wanted to know what I could do as an artist,” Jones said.

Jones worked closely with another organization, Youth Speaks, to make his vision a reality. TruArtSpeaks currently sponsors youth poetry competitions and works in Minneapolis middle and high schools to support youth poets.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said audience member Molly P. “But it was really dynamic. They used the space to their advantage.”

The audience interacted heavily with the performers, giving their feedback and responding to themes that resonated with them.

“I liked how they involved the audience,” said Molly. “It made the show come alive.”

Tran Myhre and other performers frequently asked for the audience to respond to their pieces and give feedback.

Many of the performers and board members have been writing since they were children. Keno Evol, a member of TruArtSpeaks, said he has been writing since the age of eight.

“It’s a process of healing,” Evol said. “It’s a way to practice stillness.”

Evol and others spoke about gathering inspiration for their work through family members, personal experience, and local social injustices.  Evol’s advice to aspiring poets and hip hop artists: “You have to read a lot.”

In addition to organizing the annual Page.Stage.Engage. event, TruArtSpeaks also helps send youth poets to slam competitions that involve dozens of youth artists as well as put on weekly open mic nights at the Golden Thyme Café in Minneapolis on Thursdays at 6:00, that are open to anyone who wants to share their work.