In Tech-Savvy Collab, Writers in the Schools Brings Youth Poetry to the Sidewalks of Houston

In Tech-Savvy Collab, Writers in the Schools Brings Youth Poetry to the Sidewalks of Houston

TO SAY HOUSTON has a lively poetry scene is an understatement. As we wrote back in 2017, in venues across the city — including Brazos Bookstore, Basket Books & Art, and Poison Girl, which hosts the long-running Poison Pen Reading Series — curated and open-mic readings and slam poetry competitions are happening almost nightly, and continue to be a cross-cultural, “cool and intellectually stimulating form of entertainment” for Houstonians of all ages.

Now Writers in the Schools (WITS), a non-profit founded in 1983 to nurture budding writers and poets through creative writing programs in classrooms, and technology pioneers IKE Smart City have teamed up to bring poetry to the streets and sidewalks of Houston.

Throughout Downtown/EaDo, Greater Heights, Midtown/Montrose, the Museum District, Uptown, and beyond, WITS and IKE have installed more than 180 touchscreen, interactive kiosks, each displaying a curated selection of poems by Houston-area elementary and middle school students, current Houston Youth Poet Laureate Elizabeth Hsu, and Meta4 Youth Poet Fellows.

The selection of poems appearing on the kiosks aligns with a year-long schedule of themed features and programming, including this weekend’s Space City Slam Weekend (June 28-29), a two-day poetry slam and workshop festival where poets ages 13-19 from across the country compete, learn, and form community together. WITS and IKE rolled out this innovative collaboration in May, and the kiosks will be up through April 2025.

Sleek, futuristic and fabricated to withstand extreme weather, the kiosks effectively complement the urban landscape of Space City and reveal how important the arts are for a well-rounded education and the health of our communities.

"We want our youth poets' words and voices to be visible, and this collaboration is a perfect and innovative way to do so," said Giuseppe Taurino, Executive Director of WITS in a press statement. “This collaboration allows us to extend our impact beyond the classroom.”

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