Education and Community Engagement

WE SPEAK Annual Youth Poetry Slam Competition

Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA) invites young people (ages 13-21) living in the Puget Sound region to submit video samples of spoken word performance responding to the themes:

  • Belonging – After emerging from many lockdowns and times of isolation, how do we reconnect with ourselves and our communities to find belonging?
  • Self-Care – It can be hard to take time for oneself, especially when under pressure. Respond to the theme of self-care and how it affects you and your community
  • Healing – How do we respond to and recover from the aftermath of a global pandemic? How do we heal ourselves and our communities?

Three finalists will be selected to perform their work LIVE from the ECA Stage, during the WE SPEAK Festival on Saturday, March 4. The deadline to submit materials is February 5, 2023 by midnight.

WE SPEAK Festival

ECA's annual WE SPEAK Festival is a celebration of spoken word poetry and storytelling.
Developed in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WE SPEAK provides a platform for artists to respond to issues that impact themselves, their communities, and the world. This year, we're asking questions like: How do we find belonging? How do we approach self-care? How do we respond to a recover from a global pandemic?

ECA’s 2023 WE SPEAK Festival features internationally-acclaimed author and spoken word artist Shane Koyczan who has emerged as a creator of poetry that dares to belong to the people and speak directly to them, in their own voice. Koyczan will perform alongside talented local youth chosen through a juried selection process, as part of the WE SPEAK Youth Poetry Slam Competition.

How to Enter

  1. Youth participants must be between the ages of 13 and 21, as of March 4, 2023, and live in the Puget Sound region.
  2. Create a video recording of 1-2 ORIGINAL spoken-word pieces. The entire video should be 10 minutes or under.
  3. Get creative! You may use costumes, props, music, and visual aids to share your spoken word performance. Please keep in mind, if you are a finalist, the performance elements in your video clip need to match the final performance.
  4. Fill out and submit this application form.
  5. Share the link to your video recording in the application or upload it here.
  6. Submission Deadline: February 5, 2023 by midnight.

Evaluation Criteria

We are looking for your best spoken word performance! Spoken word is a term that applies to any type of poetry intended to be performed aloud. Spoken word has roots in traditions of oral performance that go back to times before the written word. It is an oral art that focuses on the quality of sound structure and patterns that make it compelling to the listener, often using rhyme, repetition, different voice inflections and word play. It can contain elements of poetry, rap, hip-hop, storytelling, theater, dance and music.

Video spoken word submissions will be evaluated on:

  • The poems’ relevance to the festival themes of belonging, self-care and/or healing. You can speak to one of the themes, or all of them.
  • Creativity and originality.
  • Rhythm and pacing.
  • Vocal inflection.
  • Coherence of form and structure.
  • Clarity of imagery and language.

Jury Panel

Finalists and winners will be evaluated by the WE SPEAK Jury Panel, comprised of local artists and community leaders, including:

  • Dr. David Fakunle: National Organization for Arts in Health Board Member, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Florida, and Associate Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. David’s specialization is in storytelling – to strengthen health, achieve equity, and ultimately catalyze liberation.
  • Bella Hopkins: A poet and WWU student, Bella was a finalist in last year's WE SPEAK Youth Poetry Slam Competition.
  • Dr. Victor Vergara: Executive Director of Equity and Student Success for the Edmonds School District.
  • Courtney Wooten: Community leader and organizer. Courtney is a Research fellow at Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley and is the founder of Suburbia Rising and Justice and Faith Collective.


The 2023 Youth Poetry Slam Competition winner will be chosen by the jury panel based on their video submission. The first-place winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship. The second and third-place winners will each receive a $500 scholarship.

All three finalists will perform their work LIVE on the ECA Stage, during the WE SPEAK Festival, headlined by spoken word poet Shane Koyczan, on Saturday March 4 at 7:30PM.

Finalists will participate in a workshop at ECA in the weeks before the performance with a local poet mentor, TBD.


Please contact if you have any questions about the competition or submission process.

Fine Print

Spoken word performances must be of original composition by the author reading or performing the work in the video. Plagiarism is grounds for immediate dismissal from the competition. If you are under age 18, you must have permission from parent or legal guardian to participate. Please message us if you have any technical issues with your upload and we will do our best to find a workaround.


Thank you to The Hazel Miller Foundation for their generous support of the Youth Poetry Slam Competition, and to the WE SPEAK Festival event sponsors: Maria Montalvo & Strom Peterson, and Marjie Bowker.

We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts
We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts
We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts
We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts
We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts
We Speak - Education & Community Engagement - Edmonds Center for the Arts