How I Celebrated National Poetry Month

I celebrated National Poetry Month by hanging with the best.  I signed-up to volunteer with WordPlay in Cincinnati.

Watch my interview with co-founder Libby Hunter.

I met a very cool young poet who was also volunteering.


Asylum Grape Soda.

A freshman at the University of Cincinnati, Asylum Grape Soda, is a performer, poet, and WordPlay volunteer. He won the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry contest last year. Impressive, right?

The reporter/blogger in me couldn’t help myself at meeting this interesting youth. As we sat in the school office waiting to write with some adorable first graders, I grabbed a pen and paper and did a quick interview.

Here it is:

Why do you love poetry?

I love it because I get a platform to talk about what I want. I’m about being positive. But my poems can also shine light on things like mental illness in youth.

We live in a world that more often than not can be heavily influenced by hate and this is my way of helping it to end. I’m saving the world with poetry.

You mentioned that you focus on the positive. Can you tell me about that?

As far as positivity I believe it’s the only way of life that makes sense. Why not want to be happy?

Tell me about your work at WordPlay.

I like working with kids because you can be as creative as you want. I mostly work with the 13 to 20 year-olds at WordPlay. It’s easy to work with kids my age. I think the older you get, the harder it is to change. As a teen, you’re still absorbing information. I know when I was in high school and a guy in a suit showed up and talked to us. I wasn’t listening. I think these kids listen to me because I can relate.

Can you tell me about renaming yourself?

My name Asylum came from a rap verse I wrote when I said I call myself Asylum because I belong in one, but after my first open mic, I was told by a lady named Suzanne that I was Asylum, the safe place.

Asylum, myself and the other WordPlay volunteers helped Chase Elementary students write lines using inspiration from Sara Holbrook’s work, If I Were a Poem.  The poems will be hung on trees in Northside’s Hoffner Park in celebration of National Poetry Month. 

Read a article about Asylum.

Watch him perform.

You can see him perform this weekend at Present Tense Imperfect.

Find out how to volunteer at WordPlay. (I promise, you’ll be glad you did.)

Thanks, Asylum!

And in other poetry news…

That same day I attended an event celebrating my friend Pauletta Hansel’s designation as Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate. It was held at the beautiful Mercantile Library.


Myself and Pauletta Hansel. Check out her cool boots. She’s rocking the Poet Laureate look!

The author of many beautiful books of poetry, she has a new book out, Tangle. I recommend that you treat yourself with a copy.

It was a pretty amazing day.

WordPlay – building communities

What happened with Libby Hunter saw some local teens acting out from boredom? She and friend Elissa Yancey decided to find a solution and founded WordPlay, Cincinnati’s Creative Learning and Writing Center, a place for kids to be creative and succeed.

Pippin Rush filmed Libby and I talking about WordPlay, how it’s changing young lives, and of course, books. Enjoy!

Music courtesy of David Hunter. Special thanks to Pippin Rush, videographer.

P.S. Max and Calvin have been to WordPlay and they loved it!

Word Play-HD from julia mace on Vimeo.