Meta-Four Houston Celebrates 10th Year

Posted July 20, 2017 & filed under Event, News, Public Poetry.

At 7 p.m. on Sunday, half an hour before the Meta-Four Houston vs. Houston VIP Send-Off Slam was set to begin, the performance space at Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston (MATCH) was already nearly full of families, friends, and fans awaiting an evening of pulse-pounding, breathtaking poetry.

The Send-Off Slam, part of a yearly slate of events leading up to Meta-Four Houston’s journey to Brave New Voices International, is more family reunion than competition. It’s a chance for Houston V.I.P., the nationally acclaimed adult slam team, to give their blessing and best wishes to the youth of Meta-Four. With many former members of Meta-Four going on to join Houston V.I.P. as adults, the collaboration serves to cultivate the next generation of gifted slam poets and grow Houston’s poetry scene year by year.

When all the performing team members and judges were in place, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, head coach of this year’s Meta-Four team and the DJ/emcee/scorekeeper of the night, kicked off the event with an introduction to the roots of slam poetry and an explanation of the slam’s format before volunteering himself as the “sacrificial poet,” the first performer of the night to brave the judges’ evaluations and the audience’s reactions.

After a joking round of all ones (with a single nine) for the sacrificial poet, the competition began in earnest. First up was Meta-Four, performing a searing group poem about school shootings and America’s seeming indifference to gun violence. Next, Houston V.I.P. sent up a single team member whose voice trembled with emotion as she performed a poem comparing black lives ended too soon to flowers ripped from the ground before being given a chance to fully bloom.

With each round came individual and group poems from both teams that covered a wide range of personal and political themes: “problem kids” in school, human trafficking in Houston, fears and phobias, and self-defining success in the face of personal challenges. The collection of performances had viewers in spellbound silence, peals of laughter, and most of all, full of shouts and snaps.

The judges were tough, and as is tradition in the slam world, audience members were quite vocal in reacting to the judges’ scores. Only one poem received not just one, but multiple scores of ten out of ten: MetaFour’s “Kill Bill,” a haunting poem about the daughter left behind in the wake of Philando Castille’s murder, and the irony of fictional characters receiving justice that real-life victims do not. The final tally was close, with only seven-tenths of a point difference, but Meta-Four emerged victorious.

This year’s send-off held a special significance, coming at the ten year mark for Meta-Four. The youth slam team was founded in 2007 by Shannon Buggs, a member of the WITS Board of Directors, after her first visit to Brave New Voices International. In the ten years since, the program has grown and evolved with collaboration from WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler, Houston Poet Laureate and former WITS Special Programs Manager Deborah DEEP Mouton, Meta-Four Coordinator Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean, and Sixto Wagan. Director of the University of Houston Center for Art & Social Engagement. In addition, Brave New Voices International celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, and in the slam’s inaugural documentary-style podcast, Meta-Four will be one of three teams followed on their journey through the competition.

As the Meta-Four team jets off to San Francisco today, with their pockets full of poems and the wind of past successes at their backs, we here at WITS send our best wishes for an unforgettable Brave New Voices experience and look forward to ten more brilliant years from the bright burning star that is Meta-Four.

by Willow Curry

Saturn Slam: March 28th @ 7 PM

Posted March 24, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

metafour 413

Photography by Angela LaMonte, Only Once Images

The Meta-Four poetry slam preliminaries are for ages 13-19.

There are two remaining slams before the Grand Slam!

Winners will represent WITS and the city of Houston at the national Brave New Voices festival in Philadelphia.

Participants must recite or perform their own original poems and must attend the workshop prior to the slam in order to compete.

What: Saturn Slam

When: March 28th, 7pm Workshop, 7:45pm Slam

Where: Leonel Castillo Neighborhood Center, 2101 South Street, Houston, TX 77009

Tell all your friends to come out and support youth poetry on Friday night!

Slam Season Begins in Houston

Posted March 14, 2014 & filed under Notebook.


photo by goodspero

The three youth poetry slams have produced 9 spoken word poets who will proceed to the Space City Grand Slam on April 26th, 2014. There are still 3 more opportunities to qualify for the big event . The top 6 of the Space City Grand Slam will become the 2014 MetaFour Houston slam team, and will compete and perform all over Texas, and will represent Houston at the Brave New Voices competition in Philadelphia.

The poetry slam preliminaries are for ages 13-19. Participants must recite or perform their own original poems and must attend the workshop prior to the slam in order to compete.  The next two competitions will be:

Saturn Slam, March 28th, 7pm Workshop, 7:45pm Slam @ Hope Stone, 1111 Van Buren

Neptune Slam, April 5th, 11am Workshop, 11:45am Slam @ Stella Link Neighborhood Library 7405 Stella Link

These events are free, and the public is welcome to attend.


photo by goodspero

Last Chance to See Meta-Four Houston!

Posted July 31, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-fourVSmeta-fourFINALThe Writers in the Schools Meta-Four Houston Team is performing in one last poetry slam, Veterans versus Newbies, before heading off to the Brave New Voices international competition in Chicago.

Our team is the Texas Youth Poetry Slam 2013 State Champs!  Come see them this Saturday, August 3, 2013, at the Alley Theatre–Neuhuas Stage, 615 Texas Avenue.

Suggested donation is $10 and proceeds will help send Meta-Four to Brave New Voices in Chicago. Doors open at 6 PM, and the slam starts at 6:30 PM.

Applause for the Meta-Four 2013 Team!

Posted June 6, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

m4 team after grand 513Houston, we have a team!

After competing at Space City Slam in a series of six poetry competitions, six young poets were chosen to represent WITS’s performance poetry team, Meta- Four, and the city of Houston at the international youth poetry slam festival and competition, Brave New Voices, in Chicago, August 7-11.

The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee announced the winners, who rode in the grand prize winning car “Big Red” in the Houston Art Car Parade. Congratulations to Outspoken Bean, the Meta-Four coach, and to students Sarah Portugal, Terell Cloud, Jennifer Layer, Jordan Simpson, Tiffany Ike, and Daniel Ortiz! See you in Chicago!

Thanks to the support of United Airlines, who generously donated round trip tickets, Meta- Four will be flying all the way to Chicago free of charge! Also a special thanks to the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Travelers Insurance for their continuous support of Meta-Four and the Space City Grand Slam.

Space City Grand Slam Saturday, May 11th, Oh Yeah!

Posted May 6, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-Four Logo upgrade

This Saturday 18 young poets will compete, and the winners will become the Meta-Four Houston Team for 2014. These performance poets will represent Houston in the Brave New Voices International Festival in Chicago (August 2013).

When: 10 am – 12 noon

Where: HPL Central Library Downtown – 4th floor

Cost: Free

The MC will be Outspoken Bean. DJ will be King Henry. The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee will announce the winners.

Meta-Four Houston is a program of Writers in the Schools (WITS). WITS is thankful to these awesome partners:

City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance


Last Chance to Slam!

Posted May 3, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

witsslamback8.5x5.5finalCalling all teen poets and writers! Join us for the Pluto Wild-card Slam.

This Saturday is your last chance to make the Meta-Four Houston team that will represent Houston in the Brave New Voices International Festival in Chicago (August 2013).

• All youth ages 13-19 are invited to compete.

• The winners from this event and the first four slams will compete in the Grand Slam for the Houston team.

Space City Slam Series
May 4 (Sat)
Pluto Wild-card Slam
@ HPL Heights Neigborhood Library 10am-12 noon

Meta-Four Logo upgrade

Broadcast your words/your thoughts/your dreams through the Writers in the Schools (WITS) Meta-Four Houston performance poetry program.

What is Spoken Word?

Posted February 18, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-Four Houston, a newly adopted program at Writers in the Schools, introduces spoken word to youth ages 13-19 and is currently recruiting poets to compete at the international poetry slam, Brave New Voices, in Chicago in August. Here is a glimpse at what spoken word is all about, from a Meta-Four Houston alum and WITS intern Jeremy:

Jeremy performing

Jeremy performing original poetry

When I first learned what similes and metaphors were, I was the most precocious 10-year-old in my 5th grade English teacher’s classroom. “The sunflower,” my teacher explained, “shines like the sun. That’s a simile.” Not bad for an introductory poetry lesson. But, of course, being that I was a smug, conceited brat at the time, my reaction was, ‘This is so obvious’.

So everything I experienced during the rest of that school year was a more obscure sunflower simile waiting to be written. Oswald pedaled across the screen while I was flipping through channels — ‘The sunflower is like an octopus bike.’ My friend Justin got picked first for our kickball tourney — ‘The sunflower is like a world-class athlete.’

If you don’t get it, don’t worry. No one else did either. Trying to share my fifth grade pieces with people taught me my first harsh lesson in poetry: there are ideas that can be envisioned – things that can be seen, felt, and experienced – which simply won’t translate well to written language. And since I couldn’t translate my ideas to others, they were worth nothing to anyone but myself.

Jeremy with past members Ebonne and Jordan, and Meta-Four coach "Outspoken Bean"

Jeremy with past members Ebonne and Jordan, and Meta-Four coach “Outspoken Bean”

A while after elementary school, I got involved in theatre. Through it, I found a living, working example of a simile: Acting is like the poetry of the body. It’s like being the physical translation of a thoroughly researched work. I loved to get on stage and be the medium through which a playwright could express his vision. However, the things I did not enjoy about theatre were certain types of critic I’d meet after my performances. Those who had read the source material beforehand. Those who were expecting a different translation than the one I created on stage. Those who deemed that there was only one possible way to interpret the character I was playing – and that I was doing it wrong.

Though I still love both theatre and written poetry and continue to do both to this day, my favorite form of artistry is now spoken word. When I discovered it, I found the best of both worlds. A spoken word is a piece of written poetry that a poet performs on stage with his or her voice, hand gestures, and body movements. Spoken word allows poets to truly convey their words. It goes beyond the limits of letters and punctuation marks by allowing the poet to be both the author and the translator of his or her work – to literally transcend language. Spoken word also gives performers an avenue to create rather than to simply interpret. What you perform on a spoken word stage is your own – and no one else can tell you that you are doing it the wrong way.

Many who are somewhat familiar with spoken word feel that it hampers the two art-forms it brings together. They believe that putting performance and poetry together will always cause one aspect of the piece to suffer.  But in my experience, I’ve found that the opposite is actually true. Practicing spoken word has caused me to become better at both acting and writing. It’s forced me to dig deeper into my language-filled mind as a performer, while pushing me outside of my language-bound mind as a poet. And most importantly, it’s allowed me to share my ideas with others more effectively than any other method of communication I’ve ever used.

by Jeremy, Meta-Four Houston intern

Writers in the schools offers free spoken word workshops at 4 different locations this Spring 2013.

Tonight: Space City Slam Finals

Posted March 23, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Tonight at Baker-Ripley House (Neighborhood Center, Houston) the slam team for teens will be selected. Winners of this event will become the official members of the Meta-Four Houston team and will represent Houston at Brave New Voices 2012.

Houston Speak Green

Posted October 24, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Meta-Four Houston presents “Houston Speak Green” in partnership with Youth Speaks, Houston ArtsAlliance, DiverseWorks, Houston Museum of African American Culture and the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts on November 1 and 5, 2011.  Houston Speak Green is the Regional Premiere of a spoken-word poetry contest for young people to speak about environmental effects on everyday life.

Houston-area youth ages 13 – 25 will speak their truths about environmental issues impacting their everyday lives in the regional premiere of Houston Speak Green, a spoken-word poetry contest in two parts. The preliminary round of the competition will be on November 1, 2011 at 6 p.m. at the Houston Museum of African American Culture (4807 Caroline, Houston, TX 77004) in the Museum District. The finals will be on November 5, 2011 at 5 p.m. in the Wortham Theatre of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, University of Houston (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard.)

The Houston contest is a regional response to the global conversation sparked by Brave New Voices Speak Green, the national competition launched in 2006 by San Francisco-based Youth Speaks, Inc. in partnership with the Redford Center and the U.S. Green Building Council to engage leading spoken-word poets as ambassadors for environmental change. Winners of Brave New Voices Speak Green have performed their works before actor and environmental activist Robert Redford, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Nobel Prize-winner Bishop Desmond Tutu and mayors from across the country.


Houston Speak Green events (Preliminary and Finals) are free to the public and no ticket is required.

Tuesday, November 1; 6 p.m.

Houston Museum of African American Culture, 4807 Caroline, Houston, TX 77004

Saturday, November 5; 5 p.m.

Wortham Theatre, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts

University of Houston, Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard

For more information, click here.

Austin Slams Will Determine the Final Four

Posted March 25, 2008 & filed under Notebook.



Presented by the Texas Youth Word Collective

WHAT: Austin City Wide Under 21 Poetry Slam #6

WHEN: Saturday, March 29th, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

HOW MUCH: $5 cover, free for slammers and children under 5

WHERE: Ruta Maya World Headquarters, 3601 S. Congress, Austin , Texas

FOR MORE INFO: u21slam [at] yahoo.comThis event will determine the team that will represent Austin in the nation’s capitol this summer at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV). The organizers promise “gut wrenching, heart pounding, awe inspiring action, as young wordsmiths battle for the chance to showcase their skills on the national stage.”