Sophie Elkin reads her poetry at the Oakland Public Library. Photo by Chloe Shi.

17-year-old Sophie Elkin, named Oakland’s 3rd Youth Poet Laureate in August, writes about what she knows: the grit and grandeur of Oakland’s people and places and the less tangible but no less real world of adolescence. After a childhood struggling to come out to herself and her parents, Sophie hopes her poetry will help other women to find their voices the way she has.

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Spoken word, a form of poetry that expresses social commentary,  life experiences, and emotion has become particularly strong in the Bay Area where performances happen almost every night. Youth development programs such as Youth Speaks have flourished over the years attracting thousands of teenagers around the nation to take the stage and perform. Spencer Whitney got an…

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