HBO finds ‘New Voices’ with poetry slam

90-minute special chronicles youth competition

Most poetry competitions don’t attract the attention of HBO. But then most poetry competishes don’t attract 600 teenagers from across the country and Russell Simmons as exec producer of a 90-minute special on the finals.

Brave New Voices’ International Youth Poetry Slam kicks off today as the participants convene in Los Angeles for five days of slams, conferences and workshops at various locations. The finals will be held Friday at the Saban Theater, emceed by rapper Common and judged by a panel of celebs including Rosario Dawson and Hill Harper.

Youth Speaks, a San Francisco-based arts education nonprofit, organizes the fest, now in its 13th year.

“If the American public is interested in what teenagers from across the country are thinking about and talking about, this is the place to see it,” said James Kass, founder and exec director of Youth Speaks.

The HBO spesh is a follow-up to the cabler’s seven-part series tracking the regional competitions of teams hoping to make the cut for the fest.